Rebellious Tigrayan forces said on Sunday they had seized another strategic town in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, located on one of two major highways linking the capital of landlocked Ethiopia to the port in neighboring Djibouti.
The fighters control the town of Kombolcha and its airport, Getachew Reda, a spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told Reuters by satellite phone from an undisclosed location.
Ethiopia’s government spokesperson Legesse Tulu, Ethiopian military spokesperson Col. Getnet Adane and Amhara regional spokesperson Gizachew Muluneh, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Reuters could not independently verify Getachew’s claim as phone lines in Kombolcha appeared to be down on Sunday.
The capture of Kombolcha would be a strategic gain for the Tigrayan fighters against the military and their allies, who are trying to dislodge the Tigrayans from the Amhara region.
The large town is approximately 380 kilometers (235 miles)from the capital of Addis Ababa and is the furthest south in Amhara that the TPLF has reached since pushing into the region in July.
On Saturday Getachew said they had seized the town of Dessie to the north, where tens of thousands of ethnic Amharas have sought refuge from an escalation in fighting. The government denied this was the case.
War broke nearly a year ago between federal troops and the TPLF, which dominated Ethiopian politics for nearly three decades before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was appointed in 2018. The conflict has killed thousands of civilians and forced more than two million people to flee their homes.
Tigrayan forces were initially beaten back, but recaptured most of the region in July. They then pushed into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions, displacing hundreds of thousands more.
In mid-October, the Tigrayan forces said the military had launched a ground offensive to push them out of Amhara.
The military has accused the Tigrayan forces of starting the recent round of fighting.