11:55 GMT18 January 2021
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    MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Ethiopian National Defense Forces (ENDF) have gained full control of the Tigray region’s capital of Mekelle, passing the further prosecution of the local breakaway authorities, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), on to the federal police, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali said on Saturday.

    "The Federal government is now fully in control of the city of Mekelle. With full command of the regional capital, this marks the completion of the ENDF's last phase. Federal police will now continue their task of apprehending TPLF criminals and bring them to the court of law," the prime minister said on Twitter.

    ​According to the statement, the Ethiopian army released "thousands of [army officers] held hostage by the TPLF" and took control of Mekelle's airport, public institutions and administration offices.

    The prime minister then thanked Tigray's population, who have provided "utmost support and cooperation" to the army, understanding the military's "goodwill and duty to nation."

    "The main operation is successfully concluded. We now have ahead of us the critical task of rebuilding what has been destroyed; repairing what is damaged; returning those who have fled, with utmost priority of returning normalcy to the people of the Tigray region," Ahmed said.

    The prime minister also thanked the international community and called for further assistance in restoring peace to Tigray.

    In September, the TPLF, in opposition to the Ethiopian government, asked Addis Ababa for permission to hold regional elections, which were earlier postponed over COVID-19. After their request was rejected, the party organized elections on its own, which the federal government never recognized as legitimate.

    On November 4, the Ethiopian government launched a military operation in Tigray, accusing the TPLF of an attack on a local military base to hijack weapons and arm anti-government militia.

    Tigray forces, TPLF (Tigray People's Liberation Front), defense, Ethiopia
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