Fighting returns to Amhara region's main city Bahir Dar


A damaged military tank is seen near the town of Wikro, Ethiopia on March 14, 2021. PHOTO | REUTERS

Ethiopian government forces battled militiamen on Friday in the capital of the Amhara region, Bahir Dar, the regional administration and residents said, in the first fighting there since the early days of the conflict last year.

Ethiopia's military has been fighting insurgents from the Fano militia since July in a conflict that left more than 200 people dead last year, according to UN reports.

Government officials have said on several occasions in recent months that the violence in Amhara, the country's second-largest region, is under control.

However, the state-appointed human rights commission has reported repeated outbreaks of violence, including drone attacks and house-to-house raids by government forces in areas outside the capital.

The Amhara government said in a statement on Friday that the federal army and regional security forces were conducting "a joint operation and house-to-house surveillance around Bahir Dar to sweep out the extremist force that had infiltrated into the city".

"These extremist groups could not resist the combined strength of the security forces, leaving behind their dead and wounded and abandoning their weapons," it said.

A Bahir Dar resident, who asked not to be named for security reasons, said he heard heavy weapons fire from early in the morning.

"Now it is calm. The roads are closed and there is no transportation," he said.

A resident of the town of Merawi, 36 km from Bahir Dar, said there had been fighting there too on Friday but it had also died down.

Spokespeople for Ethiopia's government and military did not immediately respond to requests for comment. It was not possible to contact Fano as it has no formal structure.

The fighting in Amhara broke out less than a year after the government reached a peace deal in November 2022 to end a two-year civil war in the neighbouring Tigray region that killed hundreds of thousands of people.

Fano militiamen fought alongside the army against Tigrayan forces, but relations between the two sides quickly deteriorated over accusations the federal government had left Amhara vulnerable to security threats. The government denied this.