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Tigray, allied forces near Ethiopia capital

Fighters call for change, premier’s exit by CARA ANNA AND NOMAAN MERCHANT THE ASSOCIATED PRESS | November 6, 2021 at 4:23 a.m.

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Ethiopia's Tigray forces Friday joined with other armed and opposition groups around the country in an alliance against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to seek a political transition after a year of devastating war, and they left open the possibility for his exit by force.

"There is no limit for us," Berhane Gebrechristos, a former foreign minister and Tigray official, told reporters in Washington. "Definitely we will have a change in Ethiopia before Ethiopia implodes."

The alliance includes the Tigray forces who are fighting Ethiopian and allied forces, as well as the Oromo Liberation Army fighting alongside Tigray forces and seven other groups. The Tigray fighters are approaching the capital, Addis Ababa, according to the State Department, and Ethiopia on Friday called on military veterans to join what it now calls an "existential war."

The U.S. Embassy is urging citizens to leave Ethiopia "as soon as possible."

The opposition alliance formed as U.S. special envoy Jeffrey Feltman met with the prime minister amid calls for an immediate cease-fire and talks to end the war that has killed thousands of people since November 2020. The two held "constructive discussions," the prime minister's spokeswoman, Billene Seyoum, told The Associated Press. The prime minister also met with U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths about the rapidly growing crisis.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement called on the Tigray and Oromo Liberation Army forces to "immediately stop the current advance towards Addis Ababa." He also urged Ethiopia's government to halt its military campaign, including airstrikes in Tigray, and the mobilization of ethnic militias.

The new United Front of Ethiopian Federalist and Confederalist Forces said time was running out for Ethiopia's government to act.

The alliance seeks to "establish a transitional arrangement in Ethiopia" so the prime minister can go as soon as possible, organizer Yohanees Abraha, who is with the Tigray group, told the AP. "The next step will be, of course, to start meeting and communicating with countries, diplomats and international actors in Ethiopia and abroad."

He said the alliance is political and military. It has had no communication with Ethiopia's government, he said.

A spokesman for the Oromo Liberation Army, Odaa Tarbii, said the possibility of forcing the prime minister out will depend on Ethiopia's government and events over the coming weeks.

"Of course we prefer if there's a peaceful and orderly transition with Abiy being removed," he said.

Ethiopia's government called the alliance "a publicity stunt," asserting that some of the groups involved "are not really organizations that have any traction." It also asserted that life in the capital had a "sense of normalcy" and rejected any notion of a siege.

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