Ethiopia’s prime minister has issued an ultimatum to Tigrayan regional forces to surrender or face a military offensive on the state’s capital of Mekele.
“Your journey of destruction is coming to an end, and we urge you to surrender peacefully within the next 72 hours, recognizing you are at a point of no return,” Abiy Ahmed said in a statement aimed at the leaders of the TPLF party.
“Take this last opportunity,” he added.
The Ethiopian army has been battling local forces in Tigray since conflict broke out on November 4, when Abiy sent the national defense force into the area, after accusing local forces of attacking a military base there.
Hundreds of people have been killed and thousands have fled to Sudan since then.
A blackout of internet and phone communications in the region has made it difficult to confirm a death toll and reports of violence.
Tigray is the northernmost of Ethiopia’s nine regional states. Tensions have been building in the region since September 9 when Tigray defiantly held a regional election after Abiy postponed the polls, citing the coronavirus pandemic.