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Tigrayan rebels claim Ethiopian town Kombolcha in major advance

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(Photo: Jordan News)
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NAIROBI — Tigrayan rebels on Sunday said they have captured the northern Ethiopian town of Kombolcha, marking a rapid advance by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) as federal forces mounted a fresh battle to retake the strategic city of Dessie.اضافة اعلان

The announcement by the TPLF came a day after it claimed control of Dessie, a major victory for the group in the nearly year-long war after it retook most of Tigray from federal forces in June and expanded into neighboring regions.
“Firmly in control of #Kombolcha,” TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said on Twitter.

Much of northern Ethiopia is under a communications blackout and access for journalists is restricted, making battlefield claims difficult to independently verify.

The fighting in Kombolcha, south of Dessie, has fuelled speculation that the TPLF was heading closer to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Getachew said the TPLF, who dominated national politics for three decades until 2018, had no “other motive than breaking the deadly siege” on Tigray, which is in the throes of a severe humanitarian crisis.

In Kombolcha, frightened residents told AFP they had spent the day holed up in their homes as gunfire reverberated in the streets, with TPLF fighters clashing with Ethiopian soldiers and local militias.

Semira, 36, one of the few people to step out on Sunday, said she spotted the rebels marching down the street after she finished praying at a local mosque.
“I saw some soldiers ... going out of the city with a few trucks,” she told AFP.

Renewed fighting

To the north of Kombolcha, the city of Dessie also saw renewed gun battles, with Ethiopian troops ordering residents to stay indoors, despite reportedly retreating a day earlier.

A statement from the Ethiopian military communications office earlier said troops “are fighting to eliminate the invading force once and for all”.
Residents earlier reported a heavy military build-up in Dessie, which lies about 400km north of Addis Ababa, as civilians fleeing conflict-hit towns further north poured into the city seeking refuge.

The Amhara region — where Dessie is located — renewed calls for residents to sign up to safeguard their neighborhoods, while Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu urged citizens to mobilize for battle. 

“Every Ethiopian citizen able to fight should mobilize,” he said.
The Amhara regional administration said it “calls on all citizens in the region who are able to fight to register ... in the next three days”.

Tigray air strike

Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s military carried out an air strike on Tigray on Sunday — the latest in a campaign of aerial bombardments that began nearly two weeks ago as the military steps up its use of air power.

The strike near the regional capital of Mekele targeted a “military training facility (that) served as a recruiting and training center” for the TPLF, Ethiopia’s government communication service said on Twitter.

No casualties were confirmed but a hospital official said an earlier strike on Thursday killed 10 people, while the UN said two strikes on October 18 killed three children.

The government said the facilities bombed were military in nature and aiding the TPLF.

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