In a major blow to the federal government in its nearly year-long war, Tigray People’s Liberation Front announced it has the full control over the strategic town of Dessie in northern Ethiopia.

Much of northern Ethiopia is under a communications blackout and access for journalists is restricted, making battlefield claims difficult to verify independently. (Reuters)

Tigrayan rebels have secured “full control” of the strategic town of Dessie in northern Ethiopia, a spokesman for the group claimed, dealing a major blow to the federal government in its nearly year-long war.

“The city of Dessie is under full control of our forces,” Kindeya Gebrehiwot, a spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), said in a tweet on Saturday.

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The fighters pushed Ethiopian government forces from Dessie and were headed towards the town of Kombolcha, Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), told Reuters by satellite phone from an undisclosed location.

He said Tigrayan forces had captured numerous Ethiopian soldiers.

Ethiopian government spokesperson, however, denied the rebels’ claim, saying the town is under the control of the government.

The capture of Dessie would be a strategic gain for the Tigrayan fighters against the central government forces who are trying to dislodge them from the Amhara region.

READ MORE: Ethiopian government denies reports of air strikes on Tigray capital

The large town is some 385 km (240 miles) from the capital, Addis Ababa, and is the furthest south in Amhara that the TPLF has reached since pushing into the region in July.

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