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Local Fighters Control Three Towns in Tense Ethiopian Region

Local fighters were in control of three towns in Ethiopia’s Amhara region on Saturday, residents said, after clashes with the national army prompted the federal government to impose a “state of emergency.”

The fresh unrest in Africa’s second-most populous country comes just nine months after the end of a devastating two-year war in the neighboring region of Tigray which also drew in fighters from Amhara.

The government said Friday that the restrictions would cover Amhara “for six months” but could be imposed “nationwide in relation to any situation or movement that aggravates the security problem.”

Tensions have been rising since April when the federal government announced it was dismantling regional forces across Ethiopia, triggering protests by Amhara nationalists who said the move would weaken the northern region.

Clashes in Amhara have escalated in recent weeks, prompting travel warnings from foreign governments and the grounding of flights, with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office on Friday saying emergency measures were needed “to control this unacceptable movement.”
According to residents of Lalibela, a UNESCO World Heritage site famous for its 12th and 13th-century rock-cut churches, the local militia Fano took control of the town and its airport earlier this week.

Shops were open on Saturday but streets were largely deserted, Lalibela resident Aneley said.
“Lalibela is calm, no fighting … (but) people’s movement isn’t like it used to be before,” he said, adding that the town was suffering from intermittent power and internet outages.

The mood was similarly tense in the cities of Gondar and Dessie, locals said.
“Things look calm but there is no activity … almost all shops, cafes are closed,” said Simachew, a rickshaw driver in Gondar, which witnessed fighting on Thursday before federal troops retreated to its outskirts.

“People are indoors in their homes,” he said, with Fano fighters blocking routes in and out of the city.
Amir, a businessman from Dessie, said there was “no fighting here,” with Fano members in control of the city.
“Markets and shops are open but people here are … on alert.”

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on Friday said civilians had been attacked, with damage reported to property, while transport services and internet had been suspended in some areas of Amhara.

Web security firm Cloudflare said they “saw (internet) traffic in Amhara drop on Wednesday.”
National carrier Ethiopian Airlines has canceled flights to Dessie, Lalibela and Gondar.

The US has “expressed concern” about the violence, while Britain and Spain have both warned their citizens against traveling to parts of Amhara.

Source : Arab News