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In Ethiopia, rebels from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front claimed on Saturday that they had “total control” of the town of Dessie, a strategic point in the Amhara region, south of Tigray. The Ethiopian government has denied this information.
In Ethiopia, the rebels of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who have been fighting the Ethiopian federal army for a year, have full control of the strategic locality of Dessie, in the Amhara region, neighboring Tigray, announced on Saturday (October 30th). , a spokesperson for the rebels. The Ethiopian authorities have for their part denied the fall of the city.
The town of “Dessie is under the total control of our forces,” Kindeya Gebrehiwot, a spokesperson for the TPLF, said on Twitter.
The fall of Dessie, where thousands of displaced people from the conflict with Tigray had converged for months, would constitute a major setback for the Ethiopian government. But the authorities immediately denied the information from the TPLF. “Dessie and its surroundings are still under our security forces,” the Ethiopian government’s communications service said in a long Facebook post.
Ethiopian forces out of Dessie, locals say
Earlier on Saturday, residents of Dessie told AFP that Ethiopian forces had withdrawn from the city after fighting with Tigrayan rebels. “Around 2 am, Ethiopian soldiers began to leave their positions in the area,” Amir, a resident of Dessie, told AFP who preferred not to give his last name.
Another resident, Mohammed, said TPLF rebels “entered with no Ethiopian soldiers remaining” in Dessie, about 400 km north of Addis Ababa. “I do not know if the soldiers left or if they were captured,” he added, explaining that he too now had to leave the city.
Most of northern Ethiopia is inaccessible to journalists and the information that comes from it is very difficult to independently confirm.
Spread of the Tigrayan conflict
The residents of Dessie had for days reported a concentration of troops in the area, as thousands of people displaced by the hostilities poured in.
On October 20, the TPLF rebels claimed to be “within artillery range” of Dessie, and the president of the Amhara region, Yilkal Kefale, called on the militia to converge on the town to defend it the next day.
>> read: In Ethiopia, the war in Tigray spreads to Amhara
At the same time, the Ethiopian army carried out a campaign of aerial bombardments on the Tigrayan capital Mekele and its region targeting, according to Addis Ababa, infrastructure used for military purposes by TPLF rebels.
The latter, on the other hand, denounced a series of bombings of civilian populations which left at least fifteen dead, according to local sources.
Northern Ethiopia has been in the throes of fighting for almost a year. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the federal army to Tigray in early November 2020 to drive out the dissident regional authorities from the TPLF, whom he accuses of orchestrating attacks on military bases. He had proclaimed victory after the capture of Mekele at the end of November.
But in June, the TPLF managed to retake most of the region, including Mekele. The Ethiopian army then largely withdrew, while the TPLF continued its offensive in the neighboring regions of Amhara in the south and Afar in the east.
The hostilities have caused numerous displacements of populations in the region where the United Nations and humanitarian organizations regularly denounce the conditions of the Tigray blockade. Most international aid cannot be deployed there and some 400,000 people are on the verge of starvation.