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U.S. warns Americans and government employees in Ethiopia to leave "as soon as possible" amid deteriorating security situation

The United States is advising any of its citizens and all non-emergency U.S. government employees and their families
who are in Ethiopia to leave "as soon as possible" due to deteriorating security conditions. A security alert posted Friday by the U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa warned Americans to depart the country without delay, and offered assistance in obtaining air travel from Bole International Airport. 

Fighting has raged in the north for a year now, ever since Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops in to crush rebellious forces in the country's Tigray region. The U.N. said Wednesday that all parties to the conflict have violated international humanitarian law, citing reports of massacres, gang-rapes and ethnic cleansing. Most of the offenses have been carried out by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said. 

The war has worryingly crept closer to the capital in recent days.

"The security environment in Ethiopia is very fluid. We advise US citizens who are in Ethiopia to leave the country as soon as possible," the embassy said in a statement, as fears mount of Tigrayan rebel fighters advancing on the capital, Addis Ababa. 

It went further than a warning earlier this week by the State Department for Americans to avoid traveling to Ethiopia and consider leaving if they are already there. 

Ethiopia Tigray Crisis
Armed Tigray forces, center, accompany captured Ethiopian government soldiers and allied militia members as they are paraded through the streets in open-top trucks, as are taken to a detention center in Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia Friday, Oct. 22, 2021.  AP

The warning follows comments by Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, who urged all parties in the conflict in Ethiopia to open ceasefire negotiations. Blinken said the inflammatory language on all sides of the conflict  "pushed a peaceful resolution further away," adding that "the US is concerned about reports of arbitrary detentions based on ethnicity in Addis Ababa." 

He spoke strongly to all parties involved in the conflict, calling on the Ethiopian government to halt its military campaign, demanding Eritrea remove its troops from Ethiopia and insisting the Tigrayan rebels stop their advance towards the capital.   

One of the biggest concerns right now is humanitarian aid. Over 900,000 people are facing conflict-induced famine-like conditions, but aid organizations have often been unable to reach them.    

Ethiopia Tigray Crisis
Residents sift through rubble from a destroyed building at the scene of an airstrike in Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia Thursday, Oct. 28, 2021. AP

Pressure is mounting on the prime minister as the year-long conflict has now intensified, with a broad coalition of nine anti-government factions saying they plan to form a new alliance to fight against him.   

The group calling itself the United Front of Ethiopian and Confederalist forces includes the Tigray People's Liberation Front and the Oromo Liberation Army.  The announcement of the alliance comes during a two-day visit to Addis Ababa by the U.S. special envoy to the Horn of Africa, Jeffrey Feltman. 

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