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 File: Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at a campaign event in June (REUTERS)

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is on the frontline with the army fighting rebellious Tigrayan forces in the northeastern Afar region, state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting reported.

Abiy was wearing military fatigues and speaking to the television in the local Oromiya and Amharic languages, according to the broadcast on Friday.

He announced late on Monday night that he would personally direct the fight against rebellious forces from the northern region of Tigray and their allies. The year-long civil war has been escalating in recent weeks as the rebels advance on Addis Ababa.

“The morale of the army is very exciting,” he said, promising to capture the town of Chifra, on the border between Tigray and Afar, by the end of Friday. 

“We won’t flinch backward till we bury the enemy and ensure Ethiopia’s freedom. What we need to see Ethiopia that stands by itself, and we will die for it,” Abiy said.

The Ethiopian PM, who is a former soldier, won the Nobel Prize in 2019 for leading negotiations that ended with a peace agreement with neighbouring Eritrea – a deal that sidelined the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front (TPLF).

Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the year-long war between Ethiopian and allied forces and fighters from the country’s northern Tigray region, who long dominated the national government before Mr Abiy took office.

The conflict has intensified in recent weeks as the TPLF and their allies have advanced and are threatening to march on the capital.

Mediation efforts by the U.S. and African Union in pursuit of a cease-fire and talks have made little apparent progress .

Canada on Friday became the latest country to urge its citizens to leave Ethiopia urgently, following similar warnings by nations including the UK, France and Germany.

The conflict has created a huge humanitarian crisis in Africa’s second most populous country.

The spread of the year-old conflict into the neighbouring Afar and Amhara regions mean that 9.4 million need food aid as a direct result of ongoing conflict, the U.N.’s World Food Program announced on Friday.

More than 80% of those in need are behind the battlelines, it added.

Information from Tigray is scant because foreign media have been barred from there for much of the war, with communications links severed. Late on Thursday, Ethiopia‘s government issued an order seeking to restrict media reporting of the war, forbidding the sharing of non-official information on "military-related movements, battlefront results and situations." Reuters / AP

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