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Fighting erupts along border of Ethiopia’s Tigray region

In this May 8, 2021 file photo, Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of a truck on a road near Agula, north of Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia.
(BEN CURTIS/AP)

NAIROBI – Fighting between forces from Ethiopia's rebellious northern region of Tigray and central government forces has erupted around the town of Kobo, residents and the spokesman for the Tigrayan forces said on Wednesday, ending a months-long ceasefire.

"I am hearing sound of heavy weapons starting from this morning," said a farmer in the Kobo area who did not wish to be named. "Last week, I saw Amhara special forces and Fano (volunteer militia) heading to the front by bus."

The fighting is a major blow to attempts to start peace talks between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that controls Tigray

Two more residents confirmed they had heard heavy weapons since early morning and confirmed that in the past two days there had been major movement of troops ranging from local Fano militia, to Ethiopian army soldiers and special forces from the neighboring Amhara region to the area.

The fighting is a major blow to attempts to start peace talks between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that controls Tigray.

It marks the end of a ceasefire observed since March, when both sides fought to a bloody stalemate and the government declared a humanitarian truce.

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This AFP graphic dated Aug 10, 2022 shows the map locating the Tigray, Afar and Amhara regions of Ethiopia.

War erupted in Tigray in November 2020 and spilled into the neighboring regions of Afar and Amhara a year ago.

The fighting in Africa's second most populous nation has displaced millions of people, pushed parts of Tigray into famine and killed thousands of civilians.

Tigrai Television, a media outlet controled by the Tigray state, reported on Wednesday "the Ethiopian forces along with Amhara special forces and Amhara militias started a large-scale attack around 5:00 am"

Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu, military spokesman Colonel Getnet Adane and the prime minister's spokeswoman Billene Seyoum did not respond to requests for comment.

Tigrai Television, a media outlet controled by the Tigray state, reported on Wednesday "the Ethiopian forces along with Amhara special forces and Amhara militias started a large-scale attack around 5:00 am"

In June, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government formed a committee to negotiate with the TPLF and earlier this month the government said it wanted talks "with no preconditions", while Tigray's government has called for the restoration of services to civilians first. 

Workers clean the floor as sacks of food earmarked for the Tigray and Afar regions sits in piles in a warehouse of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Semera, the regional capital for the Afar region, in Ethiopia on Feb 21, 2022. (PHOTO / FILE / AP)

In June, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government formed a committee to negotiate with the TPLF and earlier this month the government said it wanted talks "with no preconditions", while Tigray's government has called for the restoration of services to civilians first

Tigray has been without banking and telephone services since the military pulled out at the end of June. Imports of fuel are restricted, limiting the distribution of aid.

The World Food Programme (WFP) said in a report last week that since April 1 only 20 percent of the fuel needed to distribute humanitarian supplies had entered Tigray. 

Almost 90 percent of people in the region need aid, the United Nations said, warning rates of malnutrition had "skyrocketed" and the situation was expected to get worse until October's harvest.

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There is also shortages of some medical equipment and many drugs to treat common diseases like visceral leishmaniasis, say doctors at Ayder Referral Hospital, the biggest hospital in Tigray.

The Health Ministry did not immediately respond to requests for comment.