Ethiopian regional chief seeks broader force to fight rebels

The rebels rejected the cease-fire and have since regained control of the regional capital. PHOTO: AFP

ADDIS ABABA (BLOOMBERG) - Ethiopia's northern Amhara province has urged its adults to enlist in the military and fight rebels advancing from the neighbouring Tigray region, potentially intensifying the nine-month conflict.

Amharans of above 18 years should fight for the "existence of the region", Chief Administrator Agegnehu Teshager said on Sunday (July 25) on a regional broadcaster weeks after Tigray fighters crossed into towns in Amhara and Afar states.

The conflict in Tigray began in November when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an incursion in retaliation for an attack on a federal army base by forces loyal to the Tigray People Liberation Front, the region's dissident ruling party.

The violence has led to thousands of deaths and displaced more than two million people.

The Ethiopian National Defence Forces withdrew from Tigray after Mr Abiy unilaterally declared a ceasefire at the end of June.

However, the rebels rejected the cease-fire and have since regained control of the regional capital and moved to retake other towns.

The "group is fighting against Afar and Amhara people", Mr Agegnehu said of the TPLF on regional broadcaster Amhara Media Corp.

"The people, the military and the special forces are fighting back," he said, adding, "the war is for the survival of the Amhara people".

Calls to Getachew Reda, a TPLF spokesman, didn't connect when Bloomberg sought comment.

Getachew has previously said Tigray is not attempting to gain territory outside its region and is instead trying to "degrade enemy forces".

The federal government denounced the rebels for rejecting the ceasefire which Mr Abiy said would enable farmers to return to their fields and delivery of humanitarian assistance.

"Attacks waged on the National Defence Forces and citizens of any region will be thwarted given the government's constitutional responsibility to protect the state from any threats," the Prime Minister's spokeswoman, Ms Billene Seyoum, said on Sunday by text message.

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