File Photo: Members of the Ethiopian National Defense Force (ENDF) prepare to head to mission in Sanja, Amhara region, near a border with Tigray, Ethiopia November 9, 2020 (Reuters)
Ethiopia on Friday offered a reward in exchange for information that could help locate leaders of the Tigray region's ruling party, who have been the target of a major military offensive.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, announced the military campaign against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) on November 4, saying it came in response to TPLF-orchestrated attacks on federal army camps.
Abiy declared victory after federal forces took the regional capital Mekele in late November, but the UN says clashes persist in the region and TPLF leaders remain on the run.
The military will pay 10 million Ethiopian birr (roughly $250,000 / 205,000 euros) to "any person who knows the exact location of the TPLF junta leadership", the Ethiopian Broadcasting Corporation quoted Lieutenant General Asrat Denero, head of the military's community information department, as saying Friday.
Asrat also provided a hotline where citizens could give tips.
Two days after Mekele fell, Abiy told lawmakers that federal forces were monitoring TPLF leaders closely from "the situation room" and would apprehend them soon.
He said TPLF leaders had fled west of the city, though Debretsion Gebremichael, president of Tigray when the conflict started, told AFP at the time that Abiy had the location wrong.
Debretsion and other TPLF leaders have been unreachable for nearly two weeks.
On November 13 federal police announced arrest warrants for Debretsion and 63 other TPLF leaders.
It was not immediately clear Friday if the reward offer applied to all of them.
The fighting in Tigray has left thousands dead, according to the International Crisis Group (ICG) think tank, and sent tens of thousands of refugees streaming across the border into Sudan.
The UN has been lobbying -- so far unsuccessfully -- for unfettered access to the region to provide humanitarian assistance.
On Thursday it announced a $35.6 million emergency aid package for civilians caught up in the conflict.