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Ethiopia Plans October 24 Peace Talks

FILE - An Afari militia member walks next to a house destroyed in the fight between the Ethiopian National Defence Forces and the Tigray People's Liberation Front forces in Kasagita town, Afar region, Ethiopia, February 25, 2022.

The Ethiopian government said Thursday that peace talks on the nearly two-year-old war in Tigray would start in South Africa on Monday, October 24

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's national security adviser Redwan Hussein has posted on Twitter "[The] African Union Commission (AUC) has informed us that the Peace Talks is set for 24 Oct, 2022 to be held in South Africa. We have reconfirmed our commitment to participate."

The government and TPLF leaders had agreed to join talks this month that would to be mediated by AU envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, South Africa's former deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka and former Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta.

A spokesman for the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) was not immediately available for comment.

The peace talk announcement comes after Ethiopian forces and their Eritrean allies say they have captured a string of towns in the embattled region, which has been largely under rebel control since mid 2021.

Witnesses had reported heavy shelling of civilian centers like Shire, a town where an International Rescue Committee aid worker was among three people killed last week.

The UN this week that the situation was spiraling out of control and inflicting an "utterly staggering" toll on civilians.

Tigray and its six million people are virtually cut off from the outside world, facing dire shortages of fuel, food and medicines and lacking basic services, including communications and electricity.

An estimated two million people have been driven from their homes in northern Ethiopia and millions more are in need of aid, according to UN figures, with reports of widespread atrocities including massacres and rape.

The death toll remains unknown.