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Ethiopia declares state of emergency, urges citizens to defend Addis Ababa

Ethiopia has declared a national state of emergency and told residents to prepare to defend the capital as rival Tigray forces gain ground.

The measure will allow the government to impose a curfew, disrupt transport services and detain anyone suspected of having links with a terrorist group indefinitely.

The Tigray forces say they are pressuring Ethiopia’s government to lift a months-long blockade on their region of around six million people, where basic services have been cut off and humanitarian food and medical aid denied.

Metro and other media reports indicate that local administrations in some areas could also be disbanded and military leadership could be installed, while any citizen who has reached the age of military service could be called to fight.

The BBC also reports that the TPLF has since advanced into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar, while thousands of people have been killed and more than two million have fled their homes since the conflict began.

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Justice Minister Gedion Timothewos in a state media briefing Wednesday said the county was facing serious danger to its existence and sovereignty and called for help.

“Our country is facing a grave danger to its existence, sovereignty and unity. And we can’t dispel this danger through the usual law enforcement systems and procedures,” Gedion said.

The conflict comes almost a year to the day that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an offensive against regional forces in Tigray, sparking a drawn-out conflict that has seen thousands of lives lost.

Several reports say that a UN investigation released today found all sides on the battle have violated international human rights, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity.

The report details a host of violations and abuses, including unlawful killings and extra-judicial executions, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, violations against refugees and forced displacement of civilians.

Meanwhile, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said Wednesday that the conflict had been marked by extreme brutality and called for a lasting ceasefire.

“Civilians in Tigray have been subjected to brutal violence and suffering,’ he said in a press conference on Wednesday. It is vital that all parties heed the repeated calls to end hostilities,’ Bachelet said.

Earlier on Tuesday, prime minister Ahmed urged citizens in the capital, Addis Ababa, to take up arms to defend themselves from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The nation’s security bureau said that anyone with a firearm should register it now, and it warned that searches of homes and businesses would be carried out to ensure the city’s peace.

The TPLF has claimed it has captured several towns in recent days and said it was considering marching on Addis Ababa, about 380km (235 miles) to the south of their forward positions.

Foreign citizens have been advised to leave the country, with the US warning that security has ‘deteriorated significantly.

The emergency declaration came as Joe Biden accused the government of gross violations of internationally recognised human rights and said that he was removing Ethiopia from a key US trade programme, clearing the way for further economic sanctions over its failure to end the conflict.

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