NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Ethiopia’s prime minister said Thursday the army has been ordered to move on the embattled Tigray regional capital after his 72-hour ultimatum ended for Tigray leaders to surrender, and he warned its half-million residents to stay indoors and disarm.
Abiy’s statement asserted that thousands of Tigray militia and special forces surrendered during the 72-hour period that ended Wednesday evening.
The United Nations has reported people fleeing the city, but communications and transport links remain severed to Tigray, and it’s not clear how many people in Mekele received the warnings in time.
The international community is pleading for immediate de-escalation, dialogue and humanitarian access as Ethiopian forces have fought their way through Tigray to Mekele.
But Abiy, last year’s Nobel Peace Prize winner, however, has rejected international “interference.” His government has said three high-level African Union envoys for the conflict can meet with Abiy, but not with the Tigray leaders.
Other people are frantically moving within the Tigray region from one district to another and “living within church compounds, streets, schools, health centers,” the statement warned, and it pleaded for a safe corridor to ship in aid as food runs out.