Abiy's office said Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen had been appointed foreign minister and Birhanu Jula was promoted to army chief of staff.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks during a media conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France. October 29, 2018.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed speaks during a media conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France. October 29, 2018. (Reuters)

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has sacked his army chief, head of intelligence and foreign minister, as the military continued a five-day old offensive in the restive Tigray region with a new round of air strikes.

Abiy's office announced the changes on its Twitter feed on Sunday, giving no reasons for the changes.

Abiy is pursuing a military campaign he announced on Wednesday, despite international pleas for dialogue with the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) rather than risk civil war.

Tigrayans dominated Ethiopian politics for decades until Abiy took office in 2018 and are fighting his efforts to reduce their influence.

Abiy's office said Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen had been appointed foreign minister and Birhanu Jula was promoted to army chief of staff, from deputy army chief.

Abiy also named Temesgen Tiruneh, who was president of the Amhara region, as the new intelligence chief.

Imminent disaster

Nine million people risk displacement from the escalating conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, the United Nations said in a report published on Saturday, warning that the government's declaration on Wednesday of a state of emergency in Tigray was blocking food and other aid.

An Ethiopian military plane bombed a missile and artillery site next to the airport in Tigray's capital Mekelle on Sunday, one military and two diplomatic sources told Reuters.

It was not immediately clear what was destroyed in the bombing.

The sources said the airplane left a military base in the city of Bahir Dar in the neighbouring Amhara region.

READ MORE: Ethiopia's PM says air strikes carried out in Tigray region

New army chief Birhanu told a state-run newspaper on Sunday that the army was in control of several towns near the border including Dansha and Shire, but he did not say when the army seized the areas.

It was impossible to verify the report as communications in the Tigray region have been shut down since Wednesday.

Abiy spoke on Saturday with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who "offered his good offices". 

The UN chief also spoke with the African Union chief Moussa Faki Mahamat and Sudanese Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok in his capacity as chair of the regional Africa group IGAD, according to the UN spokesman. 

READ MORE: What led to Abiy Ahmed’s military operation in Ethiopia's Tigray region?

Source: Reuters