Lawmakers in Addis Ababa have endorsed Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s order to send troops to Tigray, in order to assert federal control over the northern region whose officials have declared him illegitimate.

On Thursday, the lower house of the parliament unanimously approved the six-month state of emergency Abiy declared a day prior, according to Fana Broadcasting Corporate, as quoted by AFP.

Abiy said the military operation was in response to an “attack” by troops loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) on a military camp in the region that produced “many martyrs.” The TPLF has denied the accusation.

“No attack was launched by us,” senior TPLF official Wondimu Asamnew told AFP on Tuesday.

Wondimu said that the Northern Command of the Ethiopian military “has voluntarily started to cooperate with Tigray to save the country from an all-out civil war,” a claim Abiy denies, insisting the military has remained loyal to him.

There were “no civilian casualties and only a few skirmishes with a few soldiers who have not respected the decision of their commanders,” Wondimu told AFP.

The newly formed crisis committee in Addis Ababa said on Wednesday the goal of the military operation was to “liberate” Tigray from the TPLF.

Ethiopia’s constitution gives the government “all necessary power to protect the country’s peace and sovereignty” under a state of emergency, including suspending some “political and democratic rights.”

In practice, this could mean curfews, warrantless searches, roadblocks, shutting off communications and arrests of anyone suspected of “taking part in illegal activities that threaten the constitutional order,” AFP reported citing an anonymous senior government official.

Wondimu insisted everything was peaceful in the regional capital of Mekele at the moment, however.

The African Union, the UN and the US have all urged the government to exercise restraint.

The Tigray have accused Abiy of political persecution since he came to power in 2018, claiming to be singled out for corruption prosecutions, purged from government jobs and scapegoated for Ethiopia’s problems. Abiy, a former intelligence officer, came to power after three years of protests against the central government.

TPLF leader Meles Zenawi had ruled Ethiopia, first as president and then as PM, until his death in 2012. He was one of the leaders of the rebellion against military dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam, who had overthrown Emperor Haile Selassie I in 1974.

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