Jigjiga grabs the headlines as Ethiopian forces seize city's control
JIGJIGA, Ethiopia - Jigjiga, the capital of the Ethiopian Somali regional state has descended into chaos after Federal defence forces with tanks rolled into the city on Saturday morning, Garowe Online reports.
The troops seized control of the key installations, including local government buildings, the presidential palace, the state TV station, sparking a brief gunfight with the region's notorious Liyu Police troops.
As the stand-off brews between the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) and local troops, the city saw massive violent protests by mobs, some began looting some businesses belonging to non-Somali communities.
During the unrest, at least 21 people, mostly from other ethnic groups were killed and several churches in Jigjiga and nearby Dhegahbur town have been set on fire by angry pro-state protesters.
- The Current Situation in Jigjiga -
A resident told GO that as the widespread looting of business premises and government buildings on the rise, the ENDF allowed the regional leader Abdi Illey to speak to the people and ask them to stay calm.
A precarious tranquil returned to the city on Saturday afternoon hours after the Federal military security was handed over back to the regional forces who were seen guarding government offices and the banks.
"We have seen Ethiopian military aircrafts carrying more reinforcements arriving at the city's main airport continuously," a resident, speaking on condition of anonymity, told GO by phone.
- What caused the swift ENDF action? -
Since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed assumed office in last April, there have been attempts by the public and several members of the Ethio-Somali Regional State officials to secede from the country.
There have been reports that the parliament of the Somali region may unilaterally declare independence from Ethiopia, triggering the article 39 of the Federal country's constitution.
Meanwhile, Somali-Ethiopian leaders who are said to be opponents of the embattled president Abdi Illey have been meeting in Dire Dawa in past two days, saying they are en route to Jigjiga amid tension.
The leader of the Somali region state, Abdi Iley was reported to have fled his office and took refuge in a Liyu Police camp in the city, to avoid being arrested by the ENDF, according to the sources.
The Ministry of Defense said in a statement sent to the newsrooms that violence in Jijiga, the seat of the regional state which spread to other towns of the state is unacceptable under any circumstances.
It further added that the security forces, in collaboration with residents, are working jointly to restore peace in areas affected by conflicts and violence.