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Ethiopia government claims capture of Tigrayan city as rebels call for cease-fire

Ethiopia government claims capture of Tigrayan city as rebels call for cease-fire

Speaking to journalists, Redwan Hussein, spokesman of a newly-established State of Emergency Task Force for the Tigray conflict, said on November 16, a high-Level committee that aims to effectively respond to humanitarian concerns in Tigray regional state has been established. Photo: VCG

Ethiopia’s government said on Wednesday its soldiers had recaptured a city in southern Tigray from Tigrayan fighters, marking its first major advance inside the war-torn region in many months and dashing hopes for peace following a rebel retreat.

The Tigray People’s Liberation Front rebel group, which announced its withdrawal from the Amhara and Afar regions this week and called for a ceasefire, did not immediately react to the government’s claims.

The government communication service said the “gallant Ethiopian Defense Forces and the Amhara region security forces after sweeping the enemy force… have captured Alamata city,” indicating that fighting would continue.

“The Ethiopian National Defense Forces and the Amhara region security forces which are… destroying the fleeing terrorist clique are marching on Abergele,” the government said, referring to a district in Tigray.

Although unconfirmed, the TPLF pullout from Amhara and Afar had raised hopes that there would be talks to end the brutal 13-month conflict that has killed thousands and created a humanitarian crisis with hundreds of thousands on the brink of famine.

Both sides have been claiming major territorial gains in recent months, with the rebels at one point saying there were only 200 kilometers from the capital Addis Ababa.

But since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed – the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner – headed to the front in November, according to state media, the government has claimed to have retaken a string of key towns.

The government dismissed Monday’s withdrawal announcement by the TPLF as a coverup for military setbacks.

Communications have been cut in the conflict zone and access for journalists is restricted, making it difficult to verify battlefield claims.

In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres this week, TPLF leader Debretsion Gebremichael said he hoped the rebel pullout would be “a decisive opening for peace.”

But an African Union-led effort to broker a cease-fire has so far failed to yield a breakthrough.