Ethiopian forces retake two towns on key road to capital from rebels

Ethiopian forces recaptured Dessie and Kombolcha towns near the capital Addis Ababa, which had been taken by the Tigray rebels in October, the latest sign of the government retaking territory.
Dessie and Kombolcha lie in the Amhara region on a key highway to Addis Ababa.
Dessie and Kombolcha lie in the Amhara region on a key highway to Addis Ababa. (Amanuel Sileshi / AFP)

Ethiopia has recaptured the strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha, more than a month after Tigrayan rebels claimed control of the two towns located on a key highway to the capital.

The latest in a round of territorial gains by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration was announced late on Monday by the government communications service.

“The historic Dessie town and the trade and industry corridor town, Kombolcha have been freed by the joint gallant security forces,” the service said on Twitter.

After the rebels claimed major territorial gains as part of an advance on the capital Addis Ababa, Abiy had announced last month that he would head to the battlefield, as fighting reportedly rages on at least three fronts.

Following Abiy’s declaration, the government has announced the recapture of several small towns, most recently Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famed for its 12th-century rock-hewn churches.

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A year of conflict

The conflict, which erupted in November 2020, took a sharp turn around at the end of October this year, when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front group claimed to have captured Dessie and Kombolcha.

Since then, fears of a rebel march on Addis Ababa have prompted countries such as the United States, France, Britain to urge their citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible, although Abiy’s government says the city is secure.

The war broke out when Abiy sent troops into the northernmost Tigray region to topple the TPLF, a move he said came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.

But the rebels mounted a shock comeback, recapturing most of Tigray by June including the capital Mekele before expanding into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

The fighting has killed thousands of people, displaced more than two million and driven hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions, according to UN estimates.

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