The leader of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in Ethiopia says Tigrayan forces have withdrawn from parts of the Afar and Amhara regions.
Debretsion Gebremichael said he did not want to give details of why the Tigrayan forces had pulled back at a time when they were closing in on the capital Addis Ababa.
The federal government last week announced it had seized key territory from the TPLF, including the historic town of Lalibela.
The African Union is trying to broker a ceasefire, but has made little progress so far.
We will not stop - Ethiopian military commander
BBC News Amharic
A top commander in
Ethiopia’s army says no limits have been placed on where federal troops will
take their fight in the ongoing civil war, only vowing that “we will not stop”.
“War is full of
uncertainties and one cannot be certain about everything. However, we will not
stop,” Lt-Gen Bacha Debele told the BBC.
“I cannot say we
will pause once we reach Mekelle [the Tigray regional capital] or other places,
rather we will recapture areas at the hands of Woyane [the TPLF]. We will
follow and get rid of them. I cannot say we outlined to reach some specific
areas at the moment.”
rejected a TPLF rebel statement, in which it said it had made a strategic
withdrawal from areas that had been captured by federal forces.
"They are ashamed to
say that they have lost,” he said. “They want to please their masters who sent
them,” he added, claiming the rebels were working for “big Westerners’’.
Lt-Gen Bacha also told the BBC that the presence on the frontline of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had
fuelled morale in the army.
Asked on his
position about efforts to bring peace to Ethiopia and end its year-long war, he
told the BBC it was “not my business - my job is to fight. If I am told that
negotiations have begun and to stop fighting, then I will stop.”
A survey conducted by Ethiopia's Amhara regional government has revealed that the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) carried out massive destruction and looting in five
zones of the region, officials say.
The regional planning and development bureau, which co-ordinated the survey, said it had occurred in areas the rebels still held and in areas retaken from them.
The TPLF has not yet commented, but has previously denied similar allegations.
The head of the bureau, Animut Belete, said the total cost of the destruction was estimated to be 280bn Ethiopian birr ($5.8bn, $4.4bn), but the amount was likely to rise as more reports came in.
The survey covered 45 districts in five zones. It did not include the big city of Dessie or the industry hub of Kombolcha.
He said the destruction was severe within the agriculture
"Three agricultural research institutes, vehicles,
tractors and crops and irrigation infrastructure have been severely looted and
damaged; livestock killed, looted and eaten," Mr Animut told BBC Amharic.
Hospitals, schools, churches, mosques, businesses, roads and tourist sites had also been damaged, he said.
"Students, workers and community members who have
been trained in the enterprises have lost their jobs," he added.
In the past few day, Ethiopia's federal government said it had retaken key towns and cities from the TPLF in Amhara and the neighbouring region of Afar. This included Lalibela, a Unesco world heritage site famous for its rock-hewn churches.
The TPLF said it made a "strategic withdrawal".
The federal government previously said that more than 2,000 schools and about 1,500 hospitals and health centres had been damaged and looted by the rebels in Amhara and Afar.
The TPLF launched an offensive in the two regions in an attempt to reach the capital, Addis Ababa, and the border with Djibouti.
It accused the Ethiopian military and allies forces of committing widespread atrocities in its stronghold of Tigray - allegations which they denied.
The Ethiopian government says its forces have claimed control of
numerous strategic towns previously held by Tigrayan rebels.
Government forces have broken a rebel defence line and recaptured several towns in north-western Amhara Regional State, according to Ethiopian state television.
Gains by the
military in Afar and Amhara would be a blow to Tigrayan forces, who had
threatened to either march southwards on the capital, or eastwards and
threaten a road linking landlocked Ethiopia to the port in Djibouti.
campaign, now being led in person by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, was registering
resounding victories, according to Communication Service Minister Legese Tulu.
The claims cannot be independently verified.
The rebel Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) is yet to respond.
Ethiopia says vital route into Tigray via Afar now clear
A spokeswoman for Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says "the belligerence of the TPLF" is to blame for a blockage of aid into the Tigray region.
The only viable overland route into Tigray has been through the neighbouring Afar region, and Mr Abiy's spokeswoman told journalists the rebels have been trying to "choke off the Afar corridor" but that federal forces had since cleared the way.
More than five million people are in dire need of humanitarian assistance in the Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions, according to the United Nations. It says 100 trucks a day are needed to reach Tigray alone to meet needs there.
At the same press conference on Tuesday, the spokeswoman for Mr Abiy's office was also asked to name the foreign powers Ethiopia accuses of attempting to weaken the country.
"I think the forces know who they are so I’ll leave it at that," she replied.
Ethiopia's Tigray conflict: Drone strikes hit Mekelle
Ethiopia’s air force has carried out drone attacks in two
places in Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region, witnesses say.
The attacks appear to be part of the year-long conflict between
the federal government and rebel forces from Tigray.
The first drone strike hit at 09:00 local time in a residential
neighbourhood known as Diaspora.
Witnesses who spoke to the BBC said the attack had damaged
One resident described how his home had been
“We’re civilians and there is no military place around, but
the shell fell on my home,” he said.
“When the bombardment happened, I was with my family on the
ground floor. We are alive, but my possessions, which I have gathered over 27
years, were utterly destroyed by the attack.”
Another resident told the BBC: ”God saved my life. I lost my
belongings, but that doesn’t matter, I can buy them with money.”
BBC Tigrinya has seen video and pictures from sources in
Mekelle which show damaged homes.
Witnesses said a second strike hit the city at around 12:30
When asked to comment, federal government spokesman Legesse
Tulu told the BBC that he had no information on the latest assault.
Mekelle has been hit from the air several times since last
Ethiopia PM seen in combat gear after vowing to fight
BBC World Service
The Ethiopian government has announced new restrictions on reporting the
war, in which Tigrayan rebels are said to be continuing their advance towards
In a warning to news
outlets and social media users, it has banned the reporting of any military
movements or updates from the battlefield - unless the information has been
approved by the government.
state media have shown footage of the Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, in a rural location wearing a
military uniform, after saying days ago that he would head to the frontline to
direct the conflict.
In an interview he
sounded defiant and said government troops had retaken some territory.
Ethiopia's Tigray crisis: 'Why I am pro-peace'
A personal view of the conflict in Ethiopia for a resident of Addis Ababa who is pro-peace.
UN calls for immediate end to fighting in Ethiopia
UN Secretary General Antonio
Guterres has called for an immediate end to the fighting in Ethiopia.
Mr Guterres, who
was visiting Colombia to mark five years since a peace deal was signed with
former Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) guerrillas, asked
the Ethiopian government to follow the example.
“The peace process here
in Colombia inspires me to make an urgent appeal to the protagonists of the
conflict in Ethiopia for an unconditional and immediate ceasefire to save the
country,” he said.
Mr Guterres said
a ceasefire would “allow for an inter-Ethiopian dialogue to resolve the crisis
and allow Ethiopia to contribute again to the stability of the region".
It came as the US warned that
there was no “military solution” to the conflict in the country, amid an escalation in fighting.
A US Department of State
spokesman said diplomacy was
the "first, last, and only option" to the conflict.
It followed reports
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had joined the front line where government forces are battling
with the Tigray rebel fighters - who say they are still advancing towards the capital Addis Ababa.
The year-long conflict has led to a humanitarian crisis, with
hundreds of thousands facing famine-like conditions in the north of Ethiopia.
Thousands of people have been killed and millions forced from
UK urges citizens to leave Ethiopia immediately
The UK has suspended Covid-19 rules for travellers from Ethiopia to allow British citizens to leave the country as the war between the government and northern Tigray rebels and their allies intensifies.
“In the coming days we may see the fighting move closer to Addis Ababa, which could severely limit options for British nationals to leave Ethiopia," Vicky Ford, the Minister for Africa, said in a statement.
She added that citizens must leave "immediately" and announced the UK government was offering financial help to assist those who want to leave.
“Those who choose not to leave now should make preparations to shelter in a place of safety over the coming weeks. We cannot guarantee there will be options to leave Ethiopia in the future," she added.
Efforts to get the warring sides to agree to a ceasefire have not succeeded so far.
Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced on Monday that he would go to the front line, leaving Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen in charge of running state affairs.
Ethiopia’s President Sahle-Work Zewde has denied a report by a Paris-based magazine, alleging she had disagreements with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed over the year-long war that began in the northern Tigray region but has since spread to other parts of the country.
The Africa Report claimed the seasoned diplomat "neither approves nor supports Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s warmongering policy".
Ms Sahle-Work said in her statement on Tuesday night that she had never met the story's author Francois Soudan, Editor-in-Chief of Jeune Afrique (the French version of the magazine).
"I don’t think it’s a coincident the story is out today. This is an attempt to show there is disagreements among leaders," she added.
On Monday Mr Abiy said he would go to the frontline to fight the Tigray rebels.
"Like many, I'm heartbroken. Fighting a civil war is particularly tragic," said Ms Sahle-Work, whose role as head of state is largely ceremonial.
"It is up to us Ethiopians to find the way to resolve the conflict in our country. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has issued directives as leader of government, and we all engaged in putting our knowledge and skills to bear to follow the path that has been set."
In past comments Ms Sahle-Work has said the government was keen to solve the conflict peacefully while hinting that the government had been provoked into war with Tigray rebels.
The African Union has been leading efforts for warring sides to agree to a ceasefire, but there has been little progress.