Ethiopia’s prime minister has given Tigrayan rebel forces 72 hours to surrender before the army begins an offensive on the capital of the war-torn region.
As army tanks gathered around the city of Mekelle, Abiy Ahmed posted a message on Twitter on Sunday night which read: “We urge you to surrender peacefully within 72 hours, recognising that you are at the point of no return.”
Army chiefs earlier warned civilians in the capital of the wartorn Tigray region to “free themselves” from rebel leaders or be offered “no mercy” in a coming assault on the city.
The Ethiopian military said tanks would be deployed to encircle Mekelle, the highland capital of the northern Tigray region, and that it may also use artillery on the city, state media reported on Sunday.
Tigrayan made no comment on the ultimatum, but it will deepen international concerns as the conflict goes into its third week without any sign that hostilities will cease soon.
Ethiopian forces are advancing steadily from the north and south towards Mekelle, which lies on a plateau at an altitude of more than 2,500 metres.