Ethiopia's prime minister stepped up a military offensive in the northern region of Tigray on Sunday with air strikes as part of what he called a "law enforcement operation," increasing fears of outright civil war in Africa's second-most populous country.
Concern of outright war in Ethiopia grows as PM presses military offensive
Abiy last week launched a military campaign in the province, saying forces loyal to leaders there had attacked a military base and attempted to steal equipment.
Abiy accuses the leaders of Tigray of undermining his democratic reforms.
Government fighter jets have since been bombing targets in the region, which borders Sudan and Eritrea. Aid workers on Sunday reported heavy fighting in several parts of the region, with at least six dead and dozens wounded.
Also on Sunday, Abiy named a new chief of the army, a new intelligence chief and a new federal police commissioner and foreign minister, changes that analysts said brought close allies into top posts as the conflict escalates.
The premier won last year's Nobel Peace Prize for making peace with neighboring Eritrea and for introducing democratic reforms in one of Africa's most repressive countries.
But the democratic transition he promised is endangered by the Tigray conflict, the International Crisis Group think-tank warned last week.
In a televised address on Sunday, Abiy urged the international community "to understand the context and the consistent transgressions" by the Tigrayan leaders which led the government to undertake "this law enforcement operation."
Tigrayans complain that Abiy, who is from the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia's largest, has unfairly targeted them as part of a crackdown on past rights abuses and corruption.