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Has the counter-offensive launched by the Ethiopian government north of the capital Addis Ababa failed to the point of causing a boomerang effect? One year, almost to the day, after the start of the civil war opposing the federal troops to the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF), now supported by several disparate rebel formations, a crucial battle is turning to the disadvantage of the men of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. The stake in these fights is the control of Dessié and Kombolcha, two towns in the province of Wollo, 400 kilometers from Addis Ababa.
For nearly three weeks, the very violent clashes, involving waves of young militiamen just recruited and massacred by rebel forces equipped with tanks and cannons, were concentrated in the countryside north of these two towns. In addition to their size, and the large contingents of the army that were massed there, Dessié and Kombolcha, some twenty kilometers away, are one of the main entry points to the northern zone of the country where the troops are deployed. insurgents who left their region of Tigray. Part of these territories were to be reconquered as part of the government counter-offensive that began with the end of the rainy season in September. The reverse is true.
Not only did the federal forces fail to push through the rebel positions, but the TDF – structured around the former Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF) party – entered both towns on Saturday. According to a Tigrayan spokesperson, Dessié and Kombolcha are now under the control of the rebels, which the head of a humanitarian agency confirms. This information is however very difficult to verify, the media having no access to the fronts. Despite the cut in telecommunications, testimonies from residents of Dessié still reported, Monday 1is November, street fights. Hostilities also appear to be continuing in the vicinity of Kombolcha, where there is an airport and an industrial park.
In their respective propaganda, the two belligerents accuse each other of abuses. The communications office of the federal government assures that the Tigrayan rebels have « executed more than a hundred young inhabitants in the areas of Kombolcha where they infiltrated ». For his part, Getachew Reda, the spokesperson for TDF, affirms that they have « no need to kill young people because there was no resistance to Kombolcha ».
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In Ethiopia, the battle of Dessie opens the way for Tigrayan rebels to Addis Ababa