Addis Ababa (AFP) -
The leader of the Tigray region of Ethiopia on Sunday claimed responsibility for rocket strikes on the airport in neighbouring Eritrea's capital, a move that ratcheted up fears of a wider conflict in the Horn of Africa region.
Diplomats told AFP Saturday night that multiple rockets had struck the capital, Asmara, landing near the airport, though communications restrictions in Tigray and Eritrea made the reports difficult to verify.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced November 4 he had ordered military operations in Tigray in a dramatic escalation of a long-running feud with the region's ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).
'Ethiopian forces are also using the airport of Asmara,' TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael told AFP, saying this made the airport a 'legitimate target' for the strikes.
He added that his forces had also been fighting '16 divisions' of Eritrean forces in recent days 'in several fronts'.
The TPLF has previously accused Abiy's government of enlisting military support from Eritrea, something Ethiopia denies.
There was no immediate response from the Eritrean or Ethiopian governments on Sunday.
Hundreds of people are reported to have been killed in the conflict in Africa's second most populous country, some in a gruesome massacre documented by Amnesty International.
Thousands have fled the fighting and air strikes in Tigray, crossing into neighbouring Sudan.
It was not immediately clear how many rockets were fired on Saturday night, where in Tigray they were fired from, whether they hit their targets or what damage they inflicted.
The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades and fought a brutal 1998-2000 border war with Eritrea that left tens of thousands dead.
Abiy came to power in 2018 and won the Nobel Peace Prize the following year in large part for his effort to initiate a rapprochement with Eritrea.