Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed vowed on Friday to “bury the enemy” in his first message on the battlefield, according to state media, as the UN warned that a year-long conflict had left millions without food.

As Tigrayan insurgents report on the huge profits of the area, which this week seized a town 220 kilometers (135 miles) from Addis Ababa, an international alarm on growing tensions has intensified, with foreign nationals urging residents to evacuate.
State media on Wednesday reported that Abiy, a former lieutenant-colonel in the military, had stepped forward to lead the fight against the insurgents, giving his deputy a regular job.

In an interview on Friday with Oromia Broadcasting Corporation, the winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, he said he was confident of winning the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

“Until we bury the enemy … until Ethiopia’s independence is confirmed, we will not back down. What we want is to see Ethiopia stand still as we die, ”he said.
He added that the troops had taken control of Kassagita and planned to retake control of the Chifra region and the town of Burka in the Afar region, neighboring Tigray, the TPLF base.

“The enemy cannot stand to compete with us, we will win,” he said.
The interview was broadcast hours after the government announced new rules on Thursday against sharing information on court results that were not published on official channels, a move that could bring sanctions on journalists.

The war has created a huge population, and the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) says on Friday that the number of people in need of food aid in the north of the country has risen to more than nine million.

Hundreds of thousands are on the brink of starvation as aid workers struggle to meet the urgent needs of desperate people in Tigray, Amhara, and Afar.

WFP said the situation had worsened in recent months, with an estimated 9.4 million people facing starvation as a “direct result of ongoing conflict,” compared to an estimated seven million in September.

“The Amhara region – the epicenter in Ethiopia – has seen a dramatic increase in the number of 3.7 million people now in need of emergency care,” WFP said.
“Of the people in northern Ethiopia who need help, more than 80 percent (7.8 million) are post-war veterans.”

This week, aid workers were able to distribute food in the Amhara towns of Dessie and Kombolcha for the first time since being abducted by the TPLF about a month ago, WFP said, adding that it had been granted access to its warehouses last week. .
The risk of malnutrition has also increased in all three counties, with test data showing rates of between 16 and 28 percent in children, he said.

“Even more shocking is the fact that about 50% of pregnant women and nursing mothers tested in Amhara and Tigray were found to be malnourished.”
The fighting also damaged more than 500 health facilities in Amhara, the UN organization OCHA said on Thursday.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken “expressed deep concern about the alarming signs of military growth” in Ethiopia during a telephone interview with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday.

He also “stressed the need for urgent dialogue” on the conflict, according to a State Department statement.

As the war progresses, the government has intensified its use of air force against the TPLF – one of the areas where it enjoys war.
On Friday the TPLF and a hospital official reported two air strikes in the Tigray capital Mekele.

Drs. Hayelom Kebede, director of research at Mekele’s Ayder Referral Hospital, told AFP that the bombings took place at 9am (0600 GMT) and at 12:30 pm, the first of which destroyed two homes.

“I am still awaiting a report on the injuries,” he said.
Sources told AFP that the first strike struck near the rebel commander’s house on the hill with an anti-aircraft gun.

Most of the conflict-affected areas are under communication ban and access to journalists is limited, making court claims difficult to verify.

Abiy’s spokeswoman Billene Seyoum said she had “no information” about any airstrike in Mekele, which was again held by rebels in June before extending to Amhara and Afar.
The war broke out in early November 2020 when Abiy sent troops to Tigray, sparking a long-running feud with the TPLF, the regional ruling party.

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