Witnesses say hundreds of Eritrean vehicles left Shire, a development top US diplomat Blinken commends in phone call with Ethiopian PM Abiy Ahmed.

Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a border war between 1998 and 2000, when the TPLF dominated federal government.
Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a border war between 1998 and 2000, when the TPLF dominated federal government. (Reuters Archive)

Large numbers of Eritrean troops have left the town of Shire in Ethiopia's Tigray region where they fought in support of government forces during a two-year civil war, witnesses said, a decision US hailed. 

It was not immediately clear if the troops' movements out of Shire, one of Tigray's largest towns, was part of an Eritrean withdrawal from the region or merely a redeployment.

Witnesses and an Ethiopian official reported last month that Eritrean soldiers were leaving Shire and two other major towns, but many ended up staying behind.

A Shire resident said the Eritrean convoys were seen leaving the town from early in the morning until about 5 pm [local time]  on Friday.

"I have counted 300 cars," said the resident, who asked not to be identified for safety reasons. "They left with their heavy weapons too."

A humanitarian worker in Shire, who also requested anonymity, told the Reuters news agency he had seen hundreds of cars packed with soldiers headed north towards the border. All Eritrean troops in the town seemed to have left by Friday evening, he said.

A second aid worker said hundreds of Eritrean vehicles had left Shire but that some soldiers remained in the town.

The Eritrean forces' continuing presence in Tigray despite a November ceasefire agreement between Ethiopia's government and Tigray regional forces that requires the withdrawal of foreign soldiers is seen as a key obstacle to a lasting peace.

Eritrea considers the TPLF, which leads Tigrayan rebel forces, its enemy.
Eritrea considers the TPLF, which leads Tigrayan rebel forces, its enemy. (TRTWorld)

US hails withdrawal

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken commended the withdrawal of Eritrean troops in a phone call with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said.

"The Secretary welcomed this development, noting that it was key to securing a sustainable peace in northern Ethiopia, and urged access for international human rights monitors," Price said in a statement.

The Tigray war is believed to have resulted in tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of deaths and forced millions to flee their homes.

During the war, Eritrean troops were accused by residents and human rights groups of various abuses, including the killing of hundreds of civilians in the town of Axum during a 24-hour period in November 2020.

Eritrea rejected the accusations.

Eritrea considers the TPLF, which leads Tigrayan rebel forces, its enemy.

Eritrea and Ethiopia fought a border war between 1998 and 2000, when the TPLF dominated the federal government.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies