Tigray leader says forces fired rockets at Eritrea

Mengastab Abraqai says he doesn't know where his children are.

Like at least 20,000 others, according to the United Nations, he's fled Ethiopia's Tigray region amid an escalating conflict, in which it has been claimed neighboring Eritrea is now involved.

At the Sudanese border town of Hamdayet, Mengastab says he ran from looting, stealing, and killing.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the military into Tigray after accusing forces there of attacking the national army.

On Sunday (November 15) Tigray's leader, Debretsion Gebremichael, accused neighboring Eritrea of also sending in tanks and thousands of troops and said his forces had retaliated with rockets fired at the Eritrean capital.

It's precisely the kind of escalation that raises fears the regional conflict could spread in the Horn of Africa but with communications cut and access to Tigray limited, reports are difficult to verify.

Certainly, there's no love lost between Tigray and Eritrea; the former was on the frontline of the 1998-2000 Ethiopia-Eritrea war - and though Abiy won a Nobel prize for making peace with his northern neighbor, Eritrea remains distrustful of the Tigrayan leadership.

On Sunday Abiy said Ethiopia was capable of achieving its objectives in Tigray "by itself", without specifically addressing Debretsion's claim.

Government officials in Ethiopia and Eritrea could not be immediately reached for comment, though Eritrea's foreign minister last week denied his country had sent troops.

However, in Hamdayet, several refugees did claim their areas had been shelled from the Eritrean side.

Several regional diplomats also backed up Debretsion's report of rockets being fired at the Eritrean capital Asmara - saying three were fired from Ethiopia on Saturday (November 14), with at least two hitting the airport.

Rockets were also allegedly fired at two airports in Amhara state, which borders Tigray to the south.

The Tigrayan People's Liberation Front, which governs Tigray and is chaired by Debretsion, said that was retaliation for government airstrikes in their region.

Abiy's government says the strikes are targeting arms depots controlled by the battle-hardened Tigrayan forces, who experts say possess significant military hardware.