NAIROBI (Reuters) – Rebels in Ethiopia’s Tigray region said on Tuesday they had recaptured a main town from rival forces and were pushing to take back more territory.
Reuters was unable to independently confirm the claim because communication links to the region are down.
War broke out last November between Tigray’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), and Ethiopian federal forces.
The government declared victory three weeks later when it seized the regional capital Mekelle, but the TPLF kept fighting. It recaptured Mekelle last month and now controls most of Tigray.
But some parts in the west and south are also claimed by neighbouring Amhara region, which has sent fighters to the contested areas.
TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda said on Tuesday that Tigrayan forces seized control of Alamata, the major town in southern part of Tigray, on Monday night.
“The Amhara forces were routed in the highlands north of Alamata and to the east of Alamata as well as the federal forces. Our forces cleared Alamata last night from enemy forces,” he said, adding that he had just arrived in the town.
Ethiopian military spokesman Colonel Getnet Adane declined to comment. The Amhara regional spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.
Getachew said that Tigrayan forces were “closing in” on the western town of Mai Tsebri and that they intended to push beyond there to drive out Amhara fighters from all areas they took control of during the war.
A spokesperson for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the head of the government’s task force on Tigray did not respond to requests for comment.
TPLF leaders have said they will push to retake the fertile fields of western and southern Tigray, which were included in Tigray’s borders in a constitution adopted in 1995.
But neighbouring Amhara region claims the land and its forces, along with Ethiopian troops and allies from neighbouring Eritrea, are stationed in the territory.
Also on Tuesday, the United Nations World Food Programme said a convoy that arrived in Tigray a day earlier was carrying 900 metric tonnes of food, only enough to cover the most basic needs of 200,000 people for a week, a fraction of the 4 million people estimated to need food aid.
(Reporting by Maggie Fick, Additional reporting by Emma Thomasson, Editing by Angus MacSwan)