Ethiopia says it has taken 2 strategic towns from Tigray rebels

NAIROBI, Kenya – Ethiopian forces have recaptured two strategic towns from rebel fighters, the government said on Monday, the latest in ...


NAIROBI, Kenya – Ethiopian forces have recaptured two strategic towns from rebel fighters, the government said on Monday, the latest in a series of victories that showed the government regaining a foothold on the battlefield after months of major defeats in the country. during the civil war that lasted a year.

Although the circumstances are unclear, the government appears to have regained control of two towns – Dessie and Kombolcha – which are essential for both rebels and government forces, and has shrunk the rebel-controlled area.

The cities were popular on both sides as they lie on a crucial highway that connects the landlocked nation to the ports of neighboring Djibouti to the east, where the majority of Ethiopia’s exports and imports are processed. They are also on an artery that connects to the highway going south of the capital.

The recent claims of victory on the battlefield represent a setback for the government. Just a month ago, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared a state of emergency, and he went to the front himself to push back the rebels of the Tigrayan ethnic group who were advancing on the capital, Addis Ababa.

“Nothing will stop us. The enemy will be destroyed, ”Abiy said on Monday, addressing the security forces, in a video released by the state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation.

Claims for territorial gains are the latest twist in a metastatic war that has sparked a massive humanitarian crisis and led to reports of massacres, sexual violence and ethnically motivated detentions.

The government communications office said on facebook that a “coalition of our courageous security forces” has captured Dessie and Kombolcha, which lie about 250 miles northeast of the capital. These claims could not be independently verified due to a communication failure in these areas, and it was not immediately clear how events on the battlefield unfolded.

But Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray, recognized on Twitter that the rebels no longer controlled Dessie and Kombolcha, claiming that they had left “as part of our plan”.

The rebels accuse the government of Mr. Abiy of increasing its use of drones in recent weeks, claiming that it had resulted in the deaths of civilians and the destruction of non-military targets.

The rebels captured the towns in late October, prompting Mr. Abiy to call on civilians to arm themselves and prepare to defend the capital. Foreign embassies, worried about the advance of the rebels, have asked their citizens to leave the country immediately.

Mr Abiy also recently claimed that the government had taken over the historic town of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its rock-hewn churches, which Tigray rebels took in August.

Now in her fourteenth month, Civil war in Ethiopia has claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than two million people, at least 400,000 of whom are believed to be facing starvation conditions.

As the conflict continues, at least 9.4 million people are in need of food assistance in northern Ethiopia, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said last week. This includes recently displaced people from the western parts of the Tigray region. The UN says several thousand people, mostly women and children, have fled the region in recent weeks.

Urgent calls for a ceasefire and efforts by the United Nations and African and Western countries to engage in political dialogue have yet to yield results. And as the war escalated, the government called on civilians to enlist, with Olympic heroes like long-distance runners Haile Gebrselassie and Feyisa Lilesa expressing support for the war effort.

The year-long conflict threatens to reverse Ethiopia’s hard-won economic gains over the past two decades. When Mr. Abiy came to power in 2018, he pledged to liberalize the economy and privatize state-owned enterprises with the aim of attracting investors and boosting one of Africa’s most dynamic economies.

Corn growing debt, the rise in inflation, suspension of duty-free access to the US market, and a sharp increase in the price of staple foods should undermine Mr. Abiy’s ambitions, experts say.

Agriculture, the backbone of the economy, has also suffered, with farmers, especially those in the northern Tigray region, internally displaced or flee to Sudan. Last week, authorities closed all secondary schools so that students could help harvest the crops to support those on the front lines.

The ethnic tensions that fueled the war have also spilled over to social media, with Facebook and Twitter being monitored for their handling of disinformation and inflammatory rhetoric, including that of Mr Abiy.

After declaring a state of emergency last month, authorities have also started rounding up Tigrayans, including elderly people and mothers with children, and putting them in overcrowded cells and warehouses where they did not have access to adequate bedding or food.

The move was condemned by rights groups, who said authorities were detaining people without charge or access to lawyers.

On Monday, six countries including Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom denounced the detentions, saying there was “no justification for the mass detention” of people from certain ethnic groups.

“Many of these acts are probably violations of international law and must cease immediately” they said in a press release. “We are calling for unhindered and timely access by international observers. “



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Newsrust - US Top News: Ethiopia says it has taken 2 strategic towns from Tigray rebels
Ethiopia says it has taken 2 strategic towns from Tigray rebels
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