Ethiopia's Amhara state rallies youth to fight Tigrayan forces as war widens

FILE PHOTO: Members of Amhara Special Forces stand guard along a street in Humera town, Ethiopia July 1, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer/File Photo

ADDIS ABABA/NAIROBI (Reuters) -Ethiopia's Amhara region on Sunday called on "all young people" to take up arms against forces from the neighbouring region of Tigray, who claimed to have taken over a town in Amhara for the first time since the conflict began.

"I call on all young people, militia, non-militia in the region, armed with any government weapon, armed with personal weapons, to join the anti-TPLF (Tigray People's Liberation Front) war mission from tomorrow," Agegnehu Teshager, president of the Amhara regional government, was quoted as saying by the region's state media.

The call for mass mobilisation came as a spokesperson for the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the party that controls Tigray, said they had taken the town of Adi Arkay in Amhara.

The spokesperson, Getachew Reda, told Reuters in a text message that TPLF had taken over the town but offered no more detail.

Martha Abebaw, a resident of Adi Arkay, told Reuters she had left on Friday. Shortly afterwards she heard Tigrayan forces had taken the town and she had been unable to reach any of her family since then, she said. All transport to the town had stopped, she said.

"I am calling them all non-stop. My mom’s phone went through once this morning and a man with a strange voice answered the phone and told me I can’t talk to her,” she told Reuters.

Spokespeople for the prime minister, Ethiopian military, a government taskforce on Tigray and did not return calls seeking comment. The spokesperson for the Amhara region said he was not authorised to comment on the matter.

War erupted between the Ethiopian military and the TPLF in November. Three weeks later, the government declared victory when it captured Tigray's capital Mekelle, but the TPLF kept fighting. At the end of June, the TPLF seized back control of Mekelle and most of Tigray after government soldiers withdrew.

In recent days Tigrayan forces pushed into Afar, the neighbouring region to the east, where they said they planned to target troops from the Amhara region fighting alongside the federal military in the area.

The main road and railway linking landlocked Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa with the sea port of Djibouti runs through Afar.

Tigrayan forces have also pushed south and have said they will push west in an effort to restore their region's pre-war boundaries. Western Tigray is currently controlled by Amhara forces, who say the land rightfully belongs to them.

On Saturday, the Amhara region's state media quoted Amhara's special forces commander, Brigadier General Tefera Mamo, as saying the war had expanded to the state.

"The terrorist group has started a war in the Amhara and Afar regions and is also harassing Ethiopians," Tefera said, referring to TPLF. "Amhara Special Forces are fighting in coordination with other security forces."

Thousands of people have died in the fighting, around 2 million have been displaced and more than 5 million rely on emergency food aid.

(Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Katharine Houreld, Alex Richardson and Susan Fenton)

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