Ethiopian PM downplays exit from Tigray’s capital

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has downplayed Monday’s capture by rebels of the Tigrayan regional capital, Mekelle.

“A lot of people were shocked… when we started withdrawing from Mekelle. But, by the time we exited, there was nothing special about it,” he said.

“It had lost its centre of gravity in the current context.”

But the rebels insist the federal forces had been beaten and were forced to leave.

Earlier, Deputy Foreign Minister Redwan Hussein said the military could retake Mekelle in three weeks if necessary.

The government had other economic priorities to deal with, he said.

More than $2.2bn (£1.6bn) had been spent by the government over the past eight months in Tigray in efforts to provide aid, he added.

Fighting has been going on since November, leaving thousands of people dead and destabilising the region.

The UN has appealed for urgent access to vulnerable people in Tigray, many of whom face starvation.

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