Updated Nov 29, 2020 - World

Ethiopian military takes "full control" of Tigray capital

Picture of Ethiopian refugees who have fled the Tigray conflict filling up water bottles
Ethiopian refugees who have fled the Tigray conflict, fill bottles and containers with water after arriving to Hamdayit. Photo: ASHRAF SHAZLY/AFP via Getty Images

Ethiopia’s military took “full control” of the capital of the Tigray region on Saturday, the army announced — a major development following more than three weeks of unrest in the area, AP reports.

Driving the news: Ethiopia's military launched an assault in the Tigray region earlier on Saturday following a collapse of diplomatic negotiations and in an effort to arrest the region's rebelling leaders, according to local media and regional government officials.

  • The offensive in Mekele, a city with a population of about 500,000, came after a 72-hour ultimatum issued by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for rebel leaders to surrender expired.

The big picture: Abiy announced a military offensive in response to a Tigray People’s Liberation Front attack on a military base on Nov. 4.

  • The TPLF calls that attack a pre-emptive strike.
  • Thousands of people are believed to have died and more than 40,000 refugees fled to Sudan, AP reported.

What they're saying: “God bless Ethiopia and its people!” Abiy said in a statement Saturday.

  • "We have entered Mekele without innocent civilians being targets," he added.
  • He later tweeted, "Our focus now will be on rebuilding the region and providing humanitarian assistance while Federal Police apprehend the TPLF clique."

Of note via the Washington Post: "Claims from both sides have been impossible to verify during the conflict because communications have been down and access to Mekele remains strictly controlled."

Go deeper: Ethiopia clashes raise risk of civil war

Editor's note: This story has been updated throughout.

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