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Ethiopia declares state of emergency as Tigray forces threaten capital

Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of trucks on a road near Agula, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, on Saturday, May 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)
Ethiopian government soldiers ride in the back of trucks on a road near Agula, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, on Saturday, May 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Ben Curtis)

NAIROBI, Kenya — Ethiopia’s government declares a national state of emergency as rival Tigray forces threaten to move on the capital, as the country’s yearlong war escalates quickly.

The declaration by the Council of Ministers is the clearest sign of alarm yet from the government of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who a year ago this week allowed soldiers from a neighboring country to invade the Tigray region and pursue the Tigray forces alongside Ethiopian troops. Thousands of people have been killed since then.

The United States has warned the Tigray forces, who long dominated the national government before Abiy took office, against any attempt to “besiege” the capital, Addis Ababa, after seizing control in recent days of the strategic cities of Dessie and Kombolcha. That positions them to move down a major highway toward the capital.

The state of emergency takes effect immediately and will last for six months. The government can impose a curfew, disrupt transport services and travel, and detain indefinitely anyone suspected of having links with a terrorist group. Local administrations in some areas could be disbanded and a military leadership could be installed.

Such actions would be implemented by law. Ethiopian lawmakers are expected to convene within 48 hours.

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