Militia troops head out to face the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in Sanja last week. Photograph: Tiksa Negeri/Reuters
Ethiopian troops have advanced further into the northern region of Tigray, seizing a key town on the road to its capital, officials in Addis Ababa have said.
The conflict between national forces and troops loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is heading towards the end of its second week.
There are widespread fears the war will exacerbate ethnic tensions elsewhere in Africa’s second-most populous country, draw in regional powers and destabilise the Horn of Africa.
On Sunday, the office of Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, said the war in Tigray was irreversible and aimed at “enforcing the rule of law”.
A taskforce set up by Abiy to handle the government’s response claimed troops had liberated the town of Alamata. “They [the TPLF] fled, taking along around 10,000 prisoners,” it said in a statement, without specifying where the prisoners were from.
Though officials have confidently proclaimed imminent victory, Monday’s announcement that federal troops had reached Alamata may not necessarily reinforce the message that the government offensive was making rapid progress.
The town of about 50,000 is 110 miles (180km) from Mekelle, Tigray’s capital and administrative centre, and only six miles from the border with the neighbouring Amhara region, the launch point for the troops.
Government forces also appear to be pushing forward further to the west, aiming to secure the frontier with Sudan and the strategically important town of Humera.
With communications mainly down and media barred, it remains difficult to independently verify assertions made by all sides.
Abiy launched military operations in Tigray 12 days ago after he accused local authorities of attacking a military camp and attempting to loot military assets. The TPLF, which is in power in the region, denies the charge and has accused the prime minister of concocting the story to justify the offensive.
Source: The Guardian