Written by Staff Writer by By Aziza Suzan, CNN Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
A series of Kassa, or Kassa Dynasty, monuments were smashed to dust with massive explosions, eyewitnesses reported, during a military operation in the region of Mekelle, east of Ethiopia.
All have reportedly been destroyed.
The government of Ethiopia says it launched the operation in the region in an effort to fight “terrorism and insurgencies.”
And while authorities say in a state of emergency and an amnesty that “all extremists, including armed groups,” are allowed to lay down their arms, some have been chanting “no surrender.”
“Earlier today, the Command of Mekelle Region has convened a Special Session to take effective measures to deal with the threats and challenges facing the region. Several operations have been held in response to the protests, militarization and unrest. In total, 62 routes have been blocked with firearms, numerous improvised explosive devices have been found, and preliminary investigations undertaken,” the Ethiopia Defense Forces said in a statement.
In the city of Mekelle, hundreds of people fled the Horn of Africa country’s Mekelle region, some with the help of security officers, the Associated Press reported.
Up to 5,000 of Mekelle’s population, or 20% of all residents, are thought to have fled the violence, according to a witness who chose to remain anonymous for safety reasons.
The news comes shortly after the Ethiopian government announced an indefinite state of emergency and announced a nationwide curfew, after four days of protests in Mekelle and a string of opposition attacks on police forces and military installations.
“There has been violent actions against security forces … in Mekelle and in some parts of Gonder. Since yesterday, there were two high profile incidents involving al-Shabaab,” Adrelde Tadesse, chairman of Mekelle’s regional assembly, told the Ethiopian state-run Ethiopian News Agency, referring to the Islamic extremist group Islamic State-affiliated Al-Shabaab, which has ties to Somalia’s violent organization, al-Shabaab.
On Monday, an incident occurred at a military barracks, another person briefed on the matter said.
Police and soldiers are “doing everything to prevent the looting that is going on,” Tadesse told Reuters on Thursday. “A curfew was imposed, the streets are now sealed, and people have been requested to stay inside.”
Social media has been abuzz with reports that Mekelle is awash with cars and trucks loaded with people fleeing, with some saying they heard reports of a military vehicle taking up position at a border crossing.