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Ethiopia declares state of emergency as Tigray forces threaten move on capital

Ethiopia declares state of emergency as Tigray forces threaten move on capital

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia’s government declared a national state of emergency Tuesday as rival Tigray forces threaten to move on the capital and the country’s yearlong war escalates quickly.

The declaration by the Council of Ministers was the clearest sign of alarm yet from the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who a year ago this week allowed soldiers from a neighboring country to invade the Tigray region and pursue the Tigray forces alongside Ethiopian troops. Thousands of people have been killed since then.

The United States has warned the Tigray forces, who long dominated the national government before Abiy took office, against any attempt to “besiege” the capital, Addis Ababa, after seizing control in recent days of the strategic cities of Dessie and Kombolcha. That positions them to move down a major highway toward the capital.

READ MORE: Tigray spokesperson says Ethiopia airstrike killed 10, including children

The state of emergency takes affect immediately and will last for six months. The government can impose a curfew, disrupt transport services and travel and detain indefinitely anyone suspected of having links with a terrorist group. Local administrations in some areas could be disbanded and a military leadership could be installed.

Such actions would be implemented by law. Ethiopian lawmakers are expected to convene within 48 hours.

Meanwhile, the Addis Ababa security bureau told residents that anyone with a firearm should register it now, and it warned that searches of homes and businesses would be carried out to ensure the city’s peace.

Ethiopia’s prime minister this week again called upon all citizens to combat the approaching Tigray forces, adding that “we should closely follow those who work for the enemy and live amongst us.” A new roundup of ethnic Tigrayans was seen in the capital Monday.

The Tigray forces say they are pressuring Ethiopia’s government to lift a deadly months-long blockade on their region of around 6 million people, where basic services have been cut off and humanitarian food and medical aid are denied.

This is “perhaps the most egregious humanitarian obstruction in the world,” a senior official with the U.S. Agency for International Development told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “We’re seeing a campaign of systematic, bureaucratic obstruction blocking assistance into areas occupied by (the Tigray forces)” affecting not just Tigray but areas in the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions now held by the Tigray fighters, the official said.

READ MORE: Reports say people are dying of hunger in Ethiopia’s blockaded Tigray

The fighters moved into those regions after retaking much of Tigray in June, displacing hundreds of thousands of residents and widening the crisis.

“We certainly had difficulty getting the prime minister’s attention” to the problem and any calls to address it, the senior USAID official said after a recent visit to Ethiopia. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized otherwise.

The Tigray forces say they are now linking up with another armed group, the Oromo Liberation Army, with which an alliance was struck earlier this year.

The fighting could reach the Oromo region that neighbors Addis Ababa. Ethnic Oromo once hailed Abiy as the country’s first Oromo prime minister, but discontent has since emerged with the jailing of outspoken Oromo leaders.

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