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Ethiopian forces begin offensive on Tigray capital, say a diplomat and Tigray forces leader

On Friday evening in Eritrea, “a loud noise, possibly an explosion” was heard in the capital Asmara, the U.S. Embassy there said in a statement early on Saturday. TPLF rockets hit Eritrea on Nov. 14.

LETTER TO ENVOYS

On Friday, a letter was sent to embassies in Addis Ababa warning defense attaches that they risked expulsion if they were in contact with unnamed enemies of Ethiopia.

“Some military attaches are working with those who endangered the security of the country, identified in blacklist and sought by attorney of the court,” said the letter. The letter was stamped by Brigadier-General Boultie Tadesse of the Defence Foreign Relations Directorate, on the copy of shown to Reuters.

“We will expel those who do not refrain from their actions who are in contact with those extremist group.”

A military spokesman and the head of the government’s Tigray taskforce did not respond to requests for comment.

Billene, the prime minister’s spokeswoman, said she could not address questions about the letter, including whether it was referring to the TPLF, without seeing the original document.

Tigrayans, who make up about 6% of Ethiopia’s 115 million population, dominated the government until Abiy took power two years ago.

Abiy pledged to unite Ethiopians and introduce freedoms after years of state repression that filled jails with tens of thousands of political prisoners. His government also put senior Tigrayan officials on trial for crimes such as corruption, torture and murder. The Tigrayan region saw those trials as discrimination.

Abiy’s reforms created more political space but also lifted the lid on long-repressed tensions over land and resources.

(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom, David Lewis and Omar Mohammed Writing by Maggie Fick Editing by Frances Kerry)

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