Ethiopia’s strategic city Dessie ‘captured’ by rebel forces | News

A rebel spokesman says Tigrayan forces captured the city in the Amhara region early Saturday.

Tigrayan rebel forces have captured the strategic town of Dessie in the Amhara region bordering Tigray, according to a spokesman for rebels and residents.

Residents told the AFP news agency that government troops withdrew on Saturday after heavy fighting and power outages in parts of the city.

“Around 2 a.m. (23:00 GMT) on Friday, Ethiopian soldiers began withdrawing from the area,” said Amir, a resident of Dessie, who declined to give his second name.

Another resident said Tigrayan rebels “entered the city while ENDF (Ethiopian National Defense Force) soldiers were not seen” anywhere in the city.

Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told Reuters via satellite phone from an unknown location on Saturday that Tigrayan fighters had pushed government forces away from Dessie and were on their way to the town of Kombolcha.

He added that the forces had captured several Ethiopian soldiers.

There were no comments from the Ethiopian government on the allegations and residents’ accounts.

The capture of Dessie would be a strategic gain for Tigrayan fighters against the central government forces who are trying to expel them from the Amhara region.

The major city is located about 385 km (240 miles) from the capital Addis Ababa and is the southernmost in Amhara that the TPLF has reached since it penetrated the region in July.

The conflict erupted in November last year after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to overthrow the TPLF.

The recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on army camps and promised a quick victory.

Tigrayan forces were initially defeated, but recaptured most of the region in July and pushed into the nearby Amhara and Afar regions.

Thousands of people have been killed and more than two million people have been forced to flee.

In mid-October, Tigrayan forces said the military had launched a ground offensive to push them out of Amhara. The military said on Thursday that there were heavy fighting there, but accused the Tigrayan forces of starting it.

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