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Ethiopian leader goes to the front line as Olympians join army

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Gold medalist Haile Gebreselassie, who set 27 long-distance running records, told Reuters he was joining. So is Olympic silver medalist Feyisa Lelisa, local media report.

While Abiy is away, Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen Hassen would take responsibility for the government’s routine business in his absence, government spokesman Legesse Tulu told a news conference, according to a report by the Fana news newspaper.

Abiy announced late Monday that he was planning to personally lead the fight Tigratian forces and their allies.

“We meet on the war front,” he wrote. “The time has come to lead the country with sacrifices.”

Last month Tigrayan forces and their allies threatened to march on the capital Addis Ababa. They have also fought hard in an attempt to cut a transport corridor connecting Ethiopia landlocked with the main port of the Djibouti region.

On Tuesday, U.S. Special Envoy Jeffrey Feltman said the Ethiopian military and regional militias had been able to curb Tigrayan’s efforts to cut the corridor, but Tigrayan forces were able to move south toward the capital.

Ethiopia’s military spokesman did not respond to requests for comment.

Ethiopian police have trained about 147,000 civilians in the capital to form neighborhood protection groups and help detect potential infiltrators, police told Reuters.

Expelled diplomats

Feltman, along with former Nigerian president, African Union envoy Olusegun Obasanjo, has been trying to mediate a ceasefire between the two sides.

On Tuesday, Feltman said the new breakthrough risked being overshadowed by military developments.

On Wednesday, Ethiopia expelled four of the six Irish diplomats from the country because of Ireland’s stance on the conflict, said Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney.

Ethiopia is at war with itself.  Here's what you need to know about conflict

Ireland has been at the forefront of calls for UN Security Council meetings on Ethiopia and the push for council statements on the conflict since joining the 15-member body in January.

“Ireland has put in the spotlight the things that have happened in Ethiopia, which are really violations of international law and are a serious humanitarian and human rights concern,” he told Ireland’s RTE radio.

“We have already had, unfortunately, many deaths and many murders in Ethiopia this year, but it could get much worse in the coming weeks … and that is why, unfortunately, the Ethiopian government has decided to target Ireland.

Dina Mufti, spokeswoman for the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Irish Foreign Ministry said its embassy would remain open but had urged its citizens to leave immediately by commercial vehicles and said those planning to visit should avoid traveling.

Also Wednesday, Switzerland and Britain advised their citizens to leave Ethiopia, citing the deteriorating security situation. France and the United States have already called on citizens to leave.

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