ADDIS ABABA: Ethiopia’s military has clashed with fighters from a militia in the Amhara region, residents said today, in a sharp escalation of a simmering feud between the two former allies.
The Fano militia backed federal troops in a two-year civil war in the neighbouring Tigray region that ended last November, but the relationship has soured over what some in the region say is a disregard by the national government for Amhara’s security.
A resident of the town of Kobo in northern Amhara said there were clashes between Fano fighters and the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) in the Tekulesh area, a 40-minute drive outside of Kobo, between 1am and 9am yesterday.
Another Kobo resident said heavy weapons fire was heard yesterday morning but the situation was calm today.
“Government offices in Kobo are almost all closed and they are not providing services. There are ENDF in Kobo,” said the second resident. Both residents declined to be identified for security reasons.
A diplomatic source, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said fighting broke out several days ago when the military launched an operation to force Fano fighters out of Kobo and a few other areas.
Fano militiamen had seized the town of Lalibela, which is about 65km west of Kobo, the diplomatic source said.
Yesterday, the state-owned Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation quoted ENDF spokesman colonel Getnet Adane as saying the military would take unspecified action against Fano for “disturbing the country’s peace”.
He cited several recent incidents in which Fano fighters had opened fire on ENDF soldiers but did not say when they had occurred.
Getnet and spokesmen for Ethiopia’s federal government and the Amhara regional administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment today.
Fano fighters took part in a week of violent protests across Amhara in April after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered that regional security forces be integrated into the police or national army.
Protesters felt the order was meant to weaken Amhara – the second biggest of the country’s 11 regions – and leave it vulnerable to attacks from neighbouring regions. The federal government denied this.