Ethiopian federal forces have taken “full control” of the Tigray region’s capital Mekelle, the military’s chief of staff Birhanu Jula said in a statement posted on the military’s official Facebook page on Saturday evening.

Authorities had said earlier that government forces were in the final stages of an offensive in the region and would take care to protect civilians in Mekelle, a city of 500 000 people.

There was no immediate comment from the Tigrayan forces in the northern region who have been fighting government troops.

Claims from all sides are difficult to verify since phone and internet links to the region have been down and access has been tightly controlled since fighting began on November 4.

In this video below, Tigrayan refugees fleeing violence:

Earlier Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Saturday that military operations in northern Tigray region have been completed, shortly after he announced federal troops had seized full control of the regional capital Mekelle.

“I am pleased to share that we have completed and ceased the military operations in the Tigray region,” he said in a tweet. Less than an hour earlier, he said in a statement, “The federal government is now fully in control of the city of Mekelle”.

There was no immediate comment from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces, who have been fighting Ethiopian troops for the past three weeks in a conflict that has sent shockwaves through the Horn of Africa.

Abiy said police were searching for the TPLF leaders.

“Federal police will now continue their task of apprehending TPLF criminals and bring them to the court of law,” said the prime minister, who has called the government offensive a law and order operation.

Claims from all sides are difficult to verify since phone and internet links to the region have been down and access has been tightly controlled since the fighting began.

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