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Ethiopia: cancellation of flights to Amhara, plagued by fighting

Ethiopia: cancellation of flights to Amhara, plagued by fighting
file photo from 23 March 2019, an Ethiopian Airlines Boeing 737 Max 8 is ...   -  
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Mulugeta Ayene/Copyright 2019 The AP. All rights reserved.


Ethiopian Airlines on Tuesday cancelled its scheduled flights from Wednesday to Friday to the capital of Amhara, Bahir Dar, the last airport served in this region of northern Ethiopia shaken by fighting between the federal army and local militias.

The national company had stopped since last week its connections to the three other regional airports of Gondar, Lalibela and Dessie.

" Ethiopian Airlines wishes to inform its customers that the flights scheduled for Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to Dessie, Gondar, Lalibela and Bahir Dar have been cancelled", announced in a press release Ethiopian Airlines, the only company to provide domestic connections to the general public.

The federal government on Friday declared a state of emergency in Amhara, Ethiopia's second most populous region plagued by heavy fighting, just nine months after the end of a devastating conflict in neighboring Tigray region.

Amhara forces, including the nationalist Fano militia, were key allies of the government during this war waged against the dissident authorities in Tigray between November 2020 and November 2022.

But tensions have emerged since April after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that he wanted to dismantle the "special forces", paramilitary units created by many regional states over the past fifteen years. Amhara nationalists believe that the government wants to weaken their region.

Clashes between the army and Fano fighters have intensified since mid-July, leading several foreign countries to recommend avoiding the region.


In Bahir Dar, artillery fire was heard Monday evening and in the night, "non-stop around the roads of the airport", according to a resident.

Tuesday morning, "there were gunshots around Lideta 14", a neighbourhood located on the airport road, he added, stressing that "people are not moving, there is no of movement".

In Gondar, a resident expressed his concern. "Things are really bad here. In addition to the gunfire, the artillery is in the city," said the tuktuk driver, also giving only his first name, Simachew.

"It's really scary even to stay inside because the heavy sounds are just awful. This morning (Tuesday) feels like yesterday, more fighting. I don't know how it's going to end", he added.

In Lalibela, a tourist site renowned for its rock-hewn churches listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the situation was "calmer" on Tuesday than the day before, according to a resident. Fano's forces have been controlling the airport and the city for several days.

The United States said it was "concerned" by the violence in Africa's second most populous country.

The World Health Organization has called for maintaining "uninterrupted access to and protection of the health system in Amhara" so that it and its partners "can continue to work there".

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