Ethiopia's declaring a state of emergency in its Amhara region as local fighters clash with military

FILE - Ethiopian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Demeke Mekonnen attends a meeting with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on June 8, 2023. Violent unrest is escalating in Ethiopias Amhara region as federal security forces clash with a local ethnic militia, leading the deputy prime minister in an unusually outspoken statement to call the situation increasingly grave. (Ahmed Yosri/Pool Photo via AP, File) (Ahmed Yosri)

NAIROBI – Ethiopia’s Council of Ministers is declaring a state of emergency in the country’s Amhara region after authorities pleaded for help as clashes intensify there between regional forces and the military.

The prime minister’s office announced the decision on Friday after the region’s leader said regular law enforcement was no longer able to contain the violence. The declaration needs approval from Parliament.

“The threat the activity is imposing on national security and public peace is increasing day by day,” the declaration said, noting severe economic damage as well and blaming “armed extremist groups.”

Ethiopia’s second most populous region has been gripped by instability since April, when federal authorities moved to disarm Amhara’s security forces following the end of the devasting two-year war in the neighboring Tigray region. Authorities last year also tried to dismantle the informal Amhara militia known as Fano.

This week, residents have reported fighting across the Amhara region as militia members attacked army units and protesters blocked roads. Flights to two popular tourist towns, Lalibela and Gondar, have been suspended. Internet access has been affected.

The state of emergency bans several activities including protests. Violators face up to 10 years imprisonment. The decree also grants authorities the ability to detain suspects without a court order, conduct searches and impose curfews.

The order says the powers apply to the Amhara region but may be extended to other parts of Ethiopia if deemed necessary.