Ethiopia conflict: Tigrayan rebels seize key city of Dessie

Tigray rebel forces

Pro-TPLF soldiers arriving in Tigray capital Makele. Rebels from Ethiopia's war-hit Tigray killed at least 125 residents of a village in the neighbouring Amhara region earlier this month, doctors said on September 8, 2021.

Photo credit: Yasuyoshi Chiba | AFP

The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) said on Saturday that its forces have taken control of the strategic city of Dessie in Ethiopia's Amhara region.

However, the Ethiopian government has denied the claim.

Earlier in the day, residents in the city told Nation.Africa that they had seen TPLF fighters entering the city which has been the centre of fighting for weeks.

Earlier, Reuters quoted rebel spokesman Getachew Reda as saying that Tigray forces had pushed government forces out of Dessie and took control of the city.

Electricity and telephone services have been cut off since Saturday afternoon.

The government's communications office, however, dismissed the rebel claims saying that TPLF forces had not captured Dessie and that the rebels "continued to gather all their forces to find out what they could not do on the front lines."


Residents of Dessie, who spoke to Reuters and AFP, said they saw the Ethiopian defense forces retreating from Dessie on Friday.

Rebel officials said that their forces are now heading to the nearby industrial city of Kombolcha which lies on the main highway that leads to Addis Ababa.

Despite the rebel claims, the Ethiopian government however has denied that Tigrayan forces have seized the city.

The Ethiopian government said in a statement that TPLF forces had attacked Dessie overnight, and that local government security forces had repelled the attack and continued counter-insurgency operations.

"Dessie and its environs are still under control of government forces" the Ethiopian government communication service said in a statement later on Saturday.

Dessie, which is some 385 kms away from the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, is the second largest city in the Amhara region and is the capital of South Wollo Zone.

Tens of thousands of people displaced by the renewed fighting in North Wollo are taking refuge in the city.

Strategic city

The fall of the strategic city could be seen as a big blow to the Ethiopian government who recently launched major offensives to push back Tigrayan forces from the Amhara region.

On October 11, the Ethiopian army launched what it said was a "final and decisive offensive" against the TPLF, a former dominant ruling party turned rebel.

 Fighting between the federal government and the TPLF, erupted in November last year.

The conflict however intensified during the past two weeks as the Ethiopian military also regularly  carries out airstrikes as part of the major offensives to quell the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), a rebel group which is fighting government and allied forces in Tigray, Amhara and Afar regions.

The United States government last week condemned Ethiopia for an escalation of violence after the military launched deadly air strikes in Mekelle and urged warring factions to immediately cease hostilities and engage in peace talks.

Previously, the US government has threatened to impose sanctions if the parties to the Tigray conflict fail to reach a negotiated settlement to end the nearly one-year long running bloody civil war.

The civil war has killed thousands and displaced millions.

About 5.2 million people, about 90 per cent of the Tigray population, are currently in need of emergency assistance. Hundreds of thousands are also under famine-like conditions.


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