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Ethiopian PM replaces top officials as conflict in Tigray region escalates

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Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed replaced his army chief, the head of intelligence and the foreign minister on Sunday as the military continued a five-day old offensive in the restive Tigray region with a new round of air strikes.

Abiy’s office did not give reasons for the personnel changes, which come as he is pursuing a military campaign against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a powerful ethnic faction that led the ruling coalition for decades until Abiy took office in 2018.

Abiy’s office said in a statement that Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen had been appointed foreign minister while deputy army chief Birhanu Jula was promoted to army chief of staff.

Temesgen Tiruneh, who was president of the Amhara region, was appointed as the new intelligence chief. Amhara regional state forces have been fighting alongside their federal counterparts in Tigray.

Countries in the region fear that the fighting could spark a civil war in Africa’s second most populous nation and destabilise the Horn of Africa region.

Tigrayans dominated Ethiopian politics for decades until Abiy reorganised the ruling coalition into a single party which the TPLF refused to join.

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