Addis Ababa says its military will remain in recently-liberated northern Amhara and Afar regions, adding the TPLF rebels have been hit hard and are no longer capable of "executing wishes."

A soldier from the Ethiopian National Defence Force looks on in Kombolcha town in the northern Amhara Region on December 11, 2021.
A soldier from the Ethiopian National Defence Force looks on in Kombolcha town in the northern Amhara Region on December 11, 2021. (AFP)

Ethiopian troops will stay in two liberated regions and won't cross into the war-ravaged northern region of Tigray, a government spokesman.

But the government will take whatever measures necessary to ensure the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) rebels do not present a threat, government spokesman Legesse Tulu told a news conference on Thursday.

"As per our current assessment, the enemy has been heavily hit and is no longer capable of executing its wishes," said Legesse.

"The Ethiopian National Defense Forces and allied forces have inflicted heavy losses on TPLF and routed the terrorist group from eastern Amhara and the whole of Afar region," Tulu said.

READ MORE: Ethiopian government claims capture of Tigrayan rebel-held Alamata

Rebels pushed back to stronghold 

The TPLF and the federal government and its allies have been at war for over a year.

Government forces stayed in Tigray for the first eight months of the war, before withdrawing in June.

Tigrayan forces then invaded the Amhara and Afar regions in July, saying they wanted to break a humanitarian aid blockade on Tigray but withdrew this month after suffering heavy battlefield casualties.

The government also dismissed Tigrayan rebels' statements on Tuesday that they were retreating voluntarily from the northern Afar and Amhara regions, saying that they were pushed out by government forces.

Ethiopia's government said on Wednesday its soldiers had recaptured a city in southern Tigray from Tigrayan rebels, marking its first major advance inside the war-torn region in many months and dashing hopes for peace following a rebel retreat.

The government communication service said the "gallant Ethiopian Defence Forces and the Amhara region security forces after sweeping the enemy force... have captured Alamata city", indicating that fighting would continue.

READ MORE: Tigray forces announce retreat from neighbouring Ethiopian regions

Blame game

The conflict in northern Ethiopia has killed thousands, displaced millions, and pushed 400,000 people in Tigray towards famine.

The TPLF accuses Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of wanting to centralise power at the expense of the regions, which he denies.

The federal government accuses the TPLF –– which used to dominate national politics for nearly three decades –– of trying to reclaim power after mass anti-TPLF protests swept Abiy into power in 2018.

All parties to the conflict, including the army, Tigrayan forces, and the Eritrean military have "to varying degrees" committed violations of international human rights, according to the UN.

READ MORE: Tigray rebels blamed for 'mass looting' UN's Ethiopia aid

Source: TRTWorld and agencies