Ethiopia’s government has denied reports of the capture of the strategically important city of Dessie by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The TPLF had said on its TV station on Saturday that it had taken control of the town in the Amhara region and was now marching towards a nearby industrial site.
The government’s information service dismissed this as fake news and stressed that the TPLF attack had failed.
Independent information was not available as telephone connections to Dessie were cut.
The US government responded to the reports by calling on both sides to immediately begin unconditional ceasefire negotiations.
“We reiterate our call for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to withdraw from the Amhara and Afar regions, including halting its advances in and around the cities of Dessie and Kombolcha.
“We urge the TPLF not to use artillery against cities and recall our strong objections to the (Ethiopian army) air strikes in Mekelle and other areas of Tigray which have cost countless lives,” US State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.
“There is no military solution to this conflict and all parties must begin ceasefire negotiations without preconditions,” Price said.
The military conflict began about a year ago when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed began to oust the TPLF, which was in power in the Tigray region.
It had dominated Ethiopia for 25 years until Abiy came to power in 2018.
Many people in Tigray feel unrepresented by the central government and demand more autonomy.
Since the beginning of August, the conflict has spread to the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara.
The clashes have led to a severe humanitarian crisis in the north of the country.