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Attacks by Tigrayan forces in Ethiopia’s Afar region have displaced more than 54,000 people from their homes, an official said Thursday, as the eight-month-old conflict appeared to be spreading beyond Tigray in the north.
Afar’s regional spokesman Ahmed Koloyta said Tigrayan fighters took control of three districts in Afar this week.
The region is of strategic importance as the main road and rail line connecting Addis Ababa, the landlocked capital of Ethiopia, to the seaport of Djibouti runs through it.
Ahmed quoted some of the displaced as saying Tigrayan fighters had burned houses, looted property and killed civilians. He provided no evidence and Reuters was unable to independently verify his claims.
Getachew Reda, spokesman for the Tigrayan forces, did not immediately call back asking for comment on the allegations.
Debretsion Gebremichael, leader of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told Reuters via satellite phone earlier on Thursday that Tigrayan troops were in Afar and said they planned to send troops from the neighboring region of Amhara, which has been fighting on behalf of the government. to fall. .
He was not immediately available for comment on Ahmed’s claims.
In November, war broke out between the TPLF, Tigray’s ruling party, and the military. Three weeks later, the government declared victory when it captured the regional capital of Mekelle, but the TPLF continued to fight.
In late June, the TPLF regained control of Mekelle and most of Tigray after the government withdrew the soldiers. Since then, the other nine regions of Ethiopia have announced they would send troops to support the military against Tigrayan fighters.
The conflict has sparked international criticism of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and concerns about the stability of Africa’s second most populous country.
Djibouti said the situation was “very worrying,” Alexi Mohamed, the president’s chief adviser, told Reuters.
Getachew, the TPLF spokesman, told Reuters via satellite phone on Tuesday that Tigrayan forces would “do everything” to get the government to accept their terms for ceasefire negotiations.
These include the complete withdrawal of government forces and their allies from Tigray’s pre-war borders and the restoration of services such as electricity, telecommunications, transport links and banks.
On Sunday, gunmen attacked a United Nations World Food Program truck convoy, halting food aid to Tigray.
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