My name is Colonel Mekuanint Dessie, the commander of ENDF 11 Division of the 6th Army. I was captured on 27 August around 1:00 pm. We were encircled by TPLF forces. We tried to break the encirclement, but we failed. I got wounded in the process and my Deputy was killed. Even if I had not been injured and my deputy had not been killed, the circumstances would not have enabled us to escape the encirclement. In any case, I got injured and eventually surrendered.
The plan we had was to launch attacks on TPLF positions. For that purpose, we have identified specific Divisions from the 6th Army that would carry out the attack. These included the 75th, 85th, and 26th Divisions that had already been positioned out of the fortification. They were assigned to launch attacks on selected enemy targets. On the other hand, the 11th, 25th, and 32nd Divisions were assigned to defend the fortress.
Our planned direction of attack was not along the main road [not frontal assault]. The plan was to attack in the mountains to the right and left side of the main road in line with the practice we had on a sand model. The first side was to start through Koba [along the mountains on the northwest side of Kobo town], otherwise known as 032 kebele, proceed through Jemedo [Maryam] and the Tebab Ber towards Merewa then to Zata and Sindedo Ber [at the tip of the Girat Kahsu mountain south of Korem and north of Alamata] as a final destination. We practiced this on the sand model prior to the attack and received assault instructions accordingly. The specific instruction given to me was to hold our defensive position while the Divisions (75th, 85th, and 26th) launch the main offensive [on the left flank].
In addition to the Merewa side, the 8th Army was instructed to attack on the Biso Ber [south of Chercher town along the Afar-Tigray border] side, leaving Mohoni town to the left and to marching to Adih Keyih area [in Wajirat mountains]. This was the grand plan. There was not any planned offensive on the frontal side [main road) because we knew that the enemy had a concrete fortress. Previously we used this direction and because they knew that we would attack in this direction, they open the route and hide in the mountains and hills for a counter-offensive. So, our plan was to attack along the mountains where there is limited enemy presence. Our practice and training took this into account.
On entering Tigray again, the idea was to start an offensive on all fronts. When we say in all fronts, for instance, one is in Kobo front, the Southern Front. The other front is through Lalibela and Abergele. The third front is through Western Tigray in Tekeze and Humera area. I do not know the specific plan there. But I know that when we say on all fronts these are the main ones. Further, when we start the offensive, Shaebiya (the Eritrean forces) would launch a simultaneous offensive either through Rama, Zalambessa or Berahle.
So, the plan was to remove TPLF whom we consider as an anti-peace element in a coordinated attack with Shaebia. Once the TPLF is removed, we were instructed to get the people back to a normal and better life. I am a military commander, and I prepared myself and my forces accordingly. When we entered Tigray in the past [in 2020], our forces and the commanders had looted and destroyed the property of the local community. Second, we also indiscriminately shot at anyone and killed people without making a distinction between civilians and combatants, based on the assumption that everyone was a combatant. Thirdly, our forces also committed rape. These crimes were definitely committed in the past. But this time the instruction is different. The main idea is to remove TPLF.
We had a proper plan and training. We were fully armed, and we no longer have fighters without firearms/weapons. We have newly arrived ammunitions and heavy military hardware. The plan was to finish the war using mechanized force and with the support of even air strikes and drone attacks. We have fully armed ourselves.
Haile Shishaye, [4/09/2022 5:47 PM]
We did this not only to fight the Junta [TPLF]. It was also to defend ourselves from foreign forces who support the Junta. We believe that the Junta has made us vulnerable to foreign invaders, Egypt in relation to the Nile dam issue and Sudan is also occupying part of our land. So, our preparations also took these foreign forces into consideration, to defend the country from anyone with ill-intention. So, new weaponry was purchased for this purpose. For some of the new military hardware, the personnel who would operate them were in the process of training. We had not received this hardware at the time, and they were kept in government storage. While planning the attack, our superiors briefed us about it. Those that we actually received prior to the fighting were Mortar, DShK, artillery (to be run by Divisions and Cores), anti-aircraft, and 107mm rockets, albeit not in great number. The hope was the drone support will enable us to effectively execute the plan.
The assessment on our side was the TPLF, what we call the Junta, fighters were forcibly recruited and because they do not have any interest to fight, its leadership could force them to fight. We knew that the leaders are battle-hardened and had experience starting from the armed struggle [to overthrow the Derg] to the Ethio-Eritrean war. And they were of course our superiors, who trained and helped us reach where we are today. So, they will use their experience and coerce their fighters to fight against us. However, we believed that the TPLF fighters do not have enough firepower and ammunition at their disposal. They do not have artillery and tanks like before. Even if they have a few, they don’t possess enough ammunition to use them. Therefore, they do not have the capability to fight our forces for more than a few hours. So, our assessment was nothing will stop us from marching to Tigray. We started our preparation based on these assumptions.
On our part, we orient our fighters that they should join only if they are interested, and sometimes, we ask our fighters if they are interested. They tell us that they joined the army based on personal interest and patriotism and were never forced to join the army. This is what we assumed. The government allocates a quota to each Wereda and Kebelle for conscripts. I think they are often recruited as per this quota. Practically, when we ask soldiers, there is no one who claims to have been forcibly recruited. However, we observed that there are many who desert the army [ENDF] and do not want to stay in the military. I do not know whether they do not want the war or not, but what I know is there are some who had deserted. Secondly, there is also a problem of not defending our stronghold and there is a lack of combat endurance and determination to fight.
We have underage soldiers. The overall requirement is to recruit only those who have attained the age of 18 but sometimes we have soldiers under the age of 18. We keep them with staff because we do not want them to carry military loads [weapons] of a soldier. We do so until they gain some strength. Our forces do not have combat endurance/stamina and determination and cannot fight for long hours.
The government proscribed Shene and Junta as terrorist groups. So, if we are unable to resolve the issue with Shene peacefully, the idea is to defeat it militarily which is considered to be defeating the Junta. When the military offensive against Shene began, Al-Shabab launched an attack in the Somali region. The assumption is the Junta is behind this as well. So, it is believed that defeating Al-Shabab is also considered to be defeating the Junta. This is what we were told. We also took it that way. It was not considered an attack independently carried out by these elements to defeat the Ethiopian government. Previously Al-Shabab declared Jehad on Ethiopia, but right now its attack is believed to be connected with the Junta. So, when Shene and Al-Shbaba get defeated, the Junta will be weakened. That was the whole idea and plan.
Haile Shishaye, [4/09/2022 5:47 PM]
Weyane [TPLF] has long hands. When it was in power it made diplomatic connections using Ethiopia’s resources. It uses its diplomatic connections to advance its agenda. Secondly, it uses infiltrators and invests its money [for influence]. Further, we received rumors that two flights had arrived in the Shire carrying weapons and ammunition. However, this is no match to the military capabilities we have and we thought it could not deter our advance.
We started the recent war. Initially, there was some change of hands in some areas. So, we made rearrangements and held our positions. However, the TPLF forces left some forces to fight with us on the front side and they sent the rest behind our defensive lines. I had reported to my superiors that we were encircled. They told me that help was on its way. I stayed in my fortress and waited for help. Later, when I discussed with our superiors on radio communication, they told me that an organized unit was coming to our rescue. They told me that there was a failed plan on the part of the 26th and 52nd Divisions and they were trying to rectify it and would provide help to us. But the TPLF’s counter-offensive was swift, and we could not cope with it. They launched a counter-offensive in many directions. They conducted a counter-offensive against my forces in four directions. Our forces also have an issue with combat endurance and determination to repel the counter-offensive.
On the other hand, TPLF fighters had better combat stamina, organization, and determination. They cut off our defensive positions and encircled us. We made life and death struggle to break the encirclement. But the TPLF held firm. At this moment, I was wounded, and my Deputy was killed. The TPLF launched a swift and hard-hitting counteroffensive in a position where we expected the least, including in a location where you would normally think is not possible for fighters to launch an attack. We had tanks and artilleries whereas the enemy did not use artillery a lot. But if you do not have combat stamina and determination, even if you are armed with modern weaponry, it is futile. TPLF did not use a lot of artillery shelling to attack our position. They approached using hand grenades and Kalashnikov. But we had artillery and tanks, but we lost the fighting. This is how the fighting went on.