Rebels claim to be 15 miles from Ethiopian capital. Eyewitnesses have yet to see fighters
From CNN’s Larry Madowo, David McKenzie, Bethlehem Feleke, Idris Muktar and Mohammed Tawfeeq
One of the rebel groups in Ethiopia claims to have forces about 25 kilometers (15 miles) from the center of the capital Addis Ababa and says government troops are defecting to the rebels, but CNN cannot independently confirm either assertion.
Odaa Tarbii, a spokesman for the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), tweeted late Wednesday: “Today, 1,165 Oromia Special Forces defected to the OLA. 400 of them joined OLA forces in the vicinity of Laga Tafo. Our forces continue pushing on from all directions, we r very close to seeing the end of this oppressive dictatorship.”
The OLA is an outlawed armed group from Oromia, Ethiopia’s most populous region.
Laga Tafo lies just northeast of Addis Ababa. But an eyewitness in the town told CNN Thursday morning that there was no sign of rebel fighters there, schools were in session as usual, and life seemed normal except for communications disruptions.
And a journalist based in Addis Ababa also told CNN Thursday that the outskirts of the city were quiet, with no rebel fighters visible.
As they have pushed the front line further south, fighters loyal to the TPLF, known as the Tigray Defense Forces (TDF), have allied with the OLA.
The rapid advance of the fighters, who said they had seized Dessie and Kombolcha, two key towns of on the road to Addis Ababa, has raised concerns among Ethiopia’s leaders that the capital could fall.
It is unclear, though, whether the rebels have the firepower to take the city and there are conflicting reports as to how close they are to the capital.
CNN has attempted to contact both the OLA and the TDF about the location of their fighters, but neither answered on Thursday