British nationals have been warned they must leave Ethiopia immediately or risk being trapped in the increasingly dangerous country.
It is looking increasingly unlikely that Ethiopia will be able to fend off a rebel advance, as Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) attempts to seize control of the country's capital Addis Ababa.
Africa Minister Vicky Ford warned the "conflict in Ethiopia is deteriorating quickly" and options to leave the country could be "severely" limited if the TPLF reaches the capital.
“In the coming days we may see the fighting move closer to Addis Ababa, which could severely limit options for British Nationals to leave Ethiopia," she said.
“I am urging all British Nationals – whatever their circumstance - to leave immediately, while commercial flights are readily available and Addis Ababa Bole International Airport remains open."
She said the government is unable to guarantee ways to escape the country to those who do not leave now.
"Interest free loans are available to help British Nationals to return to the UK who may otherwise struggle to afford flights.
“Those who choose not to leave now should make preparations to shelter in a place of safety over the coming weeks. We cannot guarantee there will be options to leave Ethiopia in the future.”
In early November Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed appealed to citizens to take up arms to halt the advancing rebel group and he's since requested that former soldiers to rejoin the army to keep the rebels at bay.
The Nobel Peace Prize-winning PM has warned the TPLF that he will not surrender, as he told the group "let’s meet at the battlefront".
Ethiopia’s government said Wednesday that Ahmed has gone to the battlefront to take charge in the country’s yearlong war and left the daily work of running the country to his deputy.
Government spokesman Legesse Tulu told reporters that the prime minister arrived at the front on Tuesday, but he didn't give details on the location.
Deputy Prime Minister Demeke Mekonnen is handling day-to-day government activities, Legesse said. The war in Africa’s second most populous nation has killed an estimated tens of thousands of people.
Countries including France, Germany and Turkey have also told their citizens to leave immediately.
But government forces are adamant they will overcome any foreign or rebel opposition, a former general said. "We Ethiopians do not compromise," he said. "We will drag their dead bodies from our land, just like the Italians," he added, in a reference to the country's former colonial masters. One of the army's new recruits, Million Abraham, said he had nothing to fear from the front line. "I am not afraid of going," he said. "Even if I die, it's not a problem. It's for my country."