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Reports: Rebel Tigray forces enter regional capital in Ethiopia

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is shown speaking during a question and answer session in parliament, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 30, 2020. File photo by EPA-EFE/STR
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is shown speaking during a question and answer session in parliament, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on November 30, 2020. File photo by EPA-EFE/STR

June 28 (UPI) -- Rebel forces have entered the capital of the Tigray region of Ethiopia, dealing a blow to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's efforts to regain control of the restive region, multiple reports indicated Monday.

Soldiers of the dissident Tigray Defense Forces entered the regional capital of Mekelle in northern Ethiopia late Monday night, Bloomberg reported.

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Ethiopian government troops retreated from the city as thousands of residents sympathetic to the rebels celebrated by waving flags and shooting off fireworks, according to the New York Times.

Ethiopian broadcaster Fana Corp. reported Abraham Belay, head of the Tigray regional government installed by Abiy nine months ago following a military assault, has called for a cease-fire.

Ongoing fighting in Tigray, which started in November between the government and Tigray political rivals to Abiy, has forced more than 2 million from their homes and killed thousands, along with sparking famine fears.

Shortly after the assault began, the prime minister said government forces had taken control of Mekelle and declared the fighting over. But the TDF has since regrouped and in recent days claimed it had scored major victories against the Ethiopian Defense Forces.

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Following those claims, an airstrike on a crowded market northwest of Mekelle last week killed and injured scores of people, including many civilians, according to United Nations and witnesses.

The government denied responsibility for the airstrike, but the incident has resulted in increased international pressure on Abiy to end the conflict and enter into negotiations with Tigray's ousted leaders.

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