Ethiopia is offering a 10 million birr ($260,000) reward to anyone with information on the location of fugitive leaders of the rebellious force in the northern region of Tigray, the government said on Friday.
The reward to help capture leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was announced on state-run broadcaster EBC and later tweeted by the government’s task force on the Tigray crisis.
The announcement was made by Lieutenant General Asrat Denero, head of the military’s community information department, who also provided a hotline where citizens could give tips.
TPLF leaders, believed to be hiding in the mountains since the capital of the region was captured by federal forces on November 28, have said that they are fighting back. Reuters news agency has not been able to reach them for comment for more than a week.
Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and nearly a million fled their homes during air strikes and ground battles in Tigray last month.
The conflict has raised concerns among Ethiopia’s international allies about the possible destabilisation of Africa’s second most populous nation.
The European Union has postponed nearly 90m euros in budget support payments to Ethiopia due to the bloc’s concerns over the crisis, according to an internal EU document seen by Reuters on Wednesday.
Ethiopia, host to the African Union headquarters, is a diplomatic heavyweight in a volatile region and its troops are valued for their service in peacekeeping missions in Somalia and South Sudan.
Federal troops seized Tigray’s capital Mekelle on November 28 and now control the main towns in the region. Although some power and telephone links were restored earlier this week in Mekelle after a virtual communications blackout since the federal offensive began on November 4, the region remains largely cut off from the world.
The area – home to six million – is also in desperate need of food and medicine with some one million people now thought to be displaced.
The lack of transparency, with most communications and transport links severed, has complicated efforts to verify the warring sides’ claims.
Meanwhile, nearly 50,000 Ethiopian refugees are now sheltering in neighbouring Sudan. Some resist being moved to a camp away from the border in the hope that missing family members, separated by the fighting, can be found.