The announcement came after government forces recaptured several strategic towns near capital Addis Ababa, including the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lalibela.

The war in Ethiopia erupted in November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF -- a move he said came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.
The war in Ethiopia erupted in November 2020 when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF -- a move he said came in response to rebel attacks on army camps. (Reuters)

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has said that he is returning to Addis Ababa from the battlefront after government forces claimed major advances in their fight against Tigrayan rebels.

"I am returning to the office as I have completed the first phase (of the conflict)," the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner prime minister said on Wednesday.

"The struggle isn't yet finished. We have areas that haven't been freed. We should offer a long-lasting solution to make sure the enemy that has tested us doesn't become a danger to Ethiopia again," he warned in a statement published on social media.

The government on Monday its forces had retaken the strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha, the latest turn in the 13-month-old war.

After the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group reported significant territorial gains as part of a march towards Addis Ababa, Abiy announced last month that he would head to the battlefront, handing over his regular duties to his deputy.

Since then, state media has broadcast images of a uniformed Abiy, a former lieutenant colonel in the military, as fighting reportedly raged on at least three fronts.

READ MORE: Ethiopia recaptures strategic towns from rebels

Fight to capture key towns

In recent days, the government has announced the recapture of several small towns, including the UNESCO World Heritage site of Lalibela which is famed for its 12th-century rock-hewn churches.

The TPLF has dismissed the government's claims, saying the rebels were making strategic withdrawals and remained undefeated.

Fears of a rebel march on Addis Ababa have prompted countries such as the United States, France and Britain to urge their citizens to leave Ethiopia as soon as possible, although Abiy's government says the city is secure.

Olusegun Obasanjo, the African Union's special envoy for the Horn of Africa, is leading a push to broker a ceasefire, but little progress has been reported so far.

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Source: TRTWorld and agencies