On Thursday, the leader of the rebel forces in the northern Tigray region of Ethiopia said that the town of Axum remained in their possession, while another town, Shire, had fallen to federal troops seeking to shut down Mekelle, the state capital.
Debretsion Gebremichael, who heads the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), said in a text to Reuters, “Shire fell three days ago, but Axum is with us, but there is an army sent to control Axum, but there is war.”
The head of Tigray’s government task force did not return calls immediately requesting comment.
Long-simmering tensions between the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa and leaders in the northern Tigray region of the country have broken out into the open this month.
Tigrayan and national military forces collided, and reports of a suspected genocide of civilians was reported by Amnesty International. There have been confirmed deaths of more than hundreds of people.
Tens of thousands have moved to neighboring Sudan as refugees. The Human Rights Office of the United Nations has cautioned that the crisis “risks spiraling out of control.”