Abiy said his troops had not destroyed the city nor killed a single civilian

ADDIS ABABA/NAIROBI (Reuters) – Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed lauded his troops on Monday for their victory over a rebellious northern movement, but the leader of Tigrayan forces said they were still resisting amid fears of a protracted guerrilla conflict.

FILE PHOTO: Debretsion Gebremichael, Tigray Regional President, attends the funeral ceremony of Ethiopia’s Army Chief of Staff Seare Mekonnen in Mekele, Tigray Region, Ethiopia June 26, 2019. REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri/File Photo

The nearly month-long war has killed hundreds and probably thousands of people, sent refugees into Sudan, enmeshed Eritrea, and stirred rivalries among Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups.

Federal forces captured Tigray’s capital Mekelle at the weekend and declared victory over the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a guerrilla movement-turned-political party that had dominated national government for nearly three decades until 2018.

“Our constitution was attacked but it didn’t take us three years, it took us three weeks,” Abiy told parliament, comparing his offensive with the American Civil War of the 1860s.

“Our army is disciplined and victorious.”

Though the TPLF said Mekelle suffered heavy bombardment, Abiy said his troops had not destroyed the city nor killed a single civilian in the region since starting an offensive in response to an attack on a federal army base on Nov. 4.

Drones were used to watch the TPLF, but federal forces declined to use rockets in Tigray, Abiy said.

“Even though we have better capacity, we won’t use it. We are not the junta,” he said. “We conduct ourselves responsibly.”

‘FIGHTING THE INVADERS’

Though the highland city of 500,000 people eventually fell with little resistance, the TPLF later said it had shot down a plane and retaken one town.

TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael, a 57-year-old former radio operator, denied reports that he had fled to South Sudan and said his forces had captured some soldiers from neighbouring Eritrea around Wukro, about 50 km (30 miles) north of Mekelle.

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