Ethiopian PM says troops ordered to move on Tigray capital

  • A Tigray girl who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, watches women cook in front of her shelter at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Misery continues for the refugees in Sudan, with little food, little medicine, little shelter, little funding and little or no contact with loved ones left behind in Tigray.

    A Tigray girl who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, watches women cook in front of her shelter at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Misery continues for the refugees in Sudan, with little food, little medicine, little shelter, little funding and little or no contact with loved ones left behind in Tigray. Associated Press

  • Tigray people who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, walk at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Misery continues for the refugees in Sudan, with little food, little medicine, little shelter, little funding and little or no contact with loved ones left behind in Tigray.

    Tigray people who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, walk at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Misery continues for the refugees in Sudan, with little food, little medicine, little shelter, little funding and little or no contact with loved ones left behind in Tigray. Associated Press

  • Tigray people who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, walk at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Misery continues for the refugees in Sudan, with little food, little medicine, little shelter, little funding and little or no contact with loved ones left behind in Tigray.

    Tigray people who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, walk at Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Misery continues for the refugees in Sudan, with little food, little medicine, little shelter, little funding and little or no contact with loved ones left behind in Tigray. Associated Press

  • A Tigray girl who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, walks near her shelter in Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Misery continues for the refugees in Sudan, with little food, little medicine, little shelter, little funding and little or no contact with loved ones left behind in Tigray.

    A Tigray girl who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, walks near her shelter in Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Wednesday, Nov. 25, 2020. Misery continues for the refugees in Sudan, with little food, little medicine, little shelter, little funding and little or no contact with loved ones left behind in Tigray. Associated Press

  • A Tigray woman who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, holds her chest as she suffers from chest pains and coughs, at the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) makeshift clinic, in Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Misery continues for the refugees in Sudan, with little food, little medicine, little shelter, little funding and little or no contact with loved ones left behind in Tigray.

    A Tigray woman who fled the conflict in Ethiopia's Tigray region, holds her chest as she suffers from chest pains and coughs, at the Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) makeshift clinic, in Umm Rakouba refugee camp in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020. Misery continues for the refugees in Sudan, with little food, little medicine, little shelter, little funding and little or no contact with loved ones left behind in Tigray. Associated Press

 
 
Posted11/26/2020 7:00 AM

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Ethiopia's prime minister says the army has been ordered to move on the embattled Tigray capital after his 72-hour ultimatum for Tigray leaders to surrender ended, and he warns residents to "stay indoors."

The statement Thursday by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office means tanks and other weaponry can now close in on the city of some half-million people. His government has warned of 'no mercy' if residents don't move away from the Tigray leaders in time.

 

The new statement asserts that thousands of Tigray militia and special forces surrendered during the 72-hour period. 'We will take utmost care to protect civilians,' it says.

Communications remain severed to Tigray, making it difficult to verify claims.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP's earlier story follows below:

The United Nations says shortages have become 'very critical' in Ethiopia's embattled Tigray region as its population of 6 million remains sealed off and its capital is under threat of attack by Ethiopian forces seeking to arrest the regional leaders.

Fuel and cash are running out, more than 1 million people are now estimated to be displaced and food for nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea will be gone in a week, according to a new report released overnight. And more than 600,000 people who rely on monthly food rations haven't received them this month.

Travel blockages are so dire that even within the Tigray capital, Mekele, the U.N. World Food Program cannot obtain access to transport food from its warehouses there.

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Communications and travel links remain severed with the Tigray region since the deadly conflict broke out on Nov. 4, and now Human Rights Watch is warning that 'actions that deliberately impede relief supplies' violate international humanitarian law.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's 72-hour ultimatum for the Tigray People's Liberation Front leaders to surrender ended Wednesday night. His government has said Mekele is surrounded.

The U.N. has reported people fleeing the city. Abiy's government had warned them of 'no mercy' if residents didn't move away from the TPLF leaders who are accused of hiding among the population.

But with communications cut, it's not clear how many people in Mekele received the warnings. The alarmed international community is calling for immediate de-escalation, dialogue and humanitarian access.

Abiy on Wednesday, however, rejected international 'interference.'

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