Ethiopian forces recapture strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha from Tigrayan fighters

Ethiopian forces recaptured the strategic towns of Dessie and Kombolcha from Tigrayan fighters, the government said, the latest sign of the government retaking territory it recently lost.

Forces aligned with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) had taken control of the towns, in the Amhara region, just more than a month ago.

“The historic Dessie city and the trade and industry corridor city, Kombolcha have been freed by the joint gallant security forces,” the government communications service said on Twitter, the latest in a round of territorial gains claimed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s administration.

The state-run Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation quoted Abiy as saying the rebels had sustained “heavy losses and (were) unable to cope with the strike by allied forces”, AFP reported. “The enemy will be hit and the victory will continue,” he said.

Last week, the government announced that pro-Abiy forces had recaptured the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Lalibela, which had fallen to Tigrayan fighters in August.

In a statement on Sunday, the leader of the TPLF, Debretsion Gebremichael, denied the government was scoring big victories, saying the rebels were making strategic territorial adjustments and remained undefeated.

The war broke out when Abiy sent troops into the northernmost Tigray region to topple the TPLF government, a move he said came in response to rebel attacks on army camps.

But the rebels mounted a comeback, recapturing most of Tigray by June, including the regional capital Mekelle, before expanding into the neighbouring regions of Amhara and Afar.

The fighting has killed thousands of people, displaced more than two million and driven hundreds of thousands into famine-like conditions, according to United Nations.