The Ethiopian military will begin the “final phase” of an offensive in the northern Tigray region, prime minister Abiy Ahmed said on Thursday.

“The 72-hour period granted to the criminal TPLF clique to surrender peacefully is now over and our law enforcement campaign has reached its final stage”, Abiy tweeted, referring to the local ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Abiy ordered air strikes and sent soldiers into Tigray on November 4 after accusing the TPLF of revolt and an attack on a government base.

Thursday’s announcement comes hours after an ultimatum for the Tigrayan forces to surrender expired. Abiy said the army has been ordered to move on the embattled Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, and warned its residents to “stay indoors”.

“Prime Minister Abiy said thousands of Tigrayan fighters have surrendered in the last three days. But the last comment we heard from the TPLF leadership refuted that claim. Government forces also said they have surrounded Mekelle. Again, Tigray military leadership have refuted that claim”, a statement said.

Nearly 43,000 Ethiopian refugees have fled into neighbouring Sudan, and large numbers are on the move within Tigray to avoid the fighting. The United Nations has said it was preparing for as many as 200,000 refugees to flee into Sudan in the coming months.


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