NAIROBI, Kenya — Ethiopia appeared to be careening toward civil war on Thursday when its military stepped up hostilities against the powerful ruling faction in the northern region of Tigray, mustering troops from across the country as its leaders ignored international pleas to step back from the brink.
“Our country has entered into a war it didn’t anticipate,” Lt. Gen. Birhanu Jula, the deputy chief of the Ethiopian National Defense Force, said on state television said Thursday afternoon. “This war is shameful, it is senseless.”
In early clashes, there were “injured soldiers on both sides,” he added.
On Wednesday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations in Tigray, accusing the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front of arming irregular militias and orchestrating an attack on a major federal army base in the region.
Western officials reported clashes between federal and local security forces in Tigray on Wednesday that left dozens of casualties. Internet and phone services to the area have been cut off since early Wednesday.
Speaking on Tigrayan television on Thursday, the regional president of Tigray, Debretsion Gebremichael, said: “The Tigrayans have full potential to destroy enemies far and near, those who step on peace and declare war on the Tigray People.”
Declan Walsh reported from Nairobi, Kenya, and Simon Marks from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.