U.S. Warns Citizens in Ethiopia to Leave, Says There Will Be No Afghanistan-Type Evac

The United States warned its citizens located in Ethiopia to "leave now" and not expect an Afghanistan-style evacuation as war in the country moves closer to the capital Addis Ababa, the Associated Press reported.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advisory issued Wednesday stating the "ongoing clashes" between Ethiopian forces and fighters from the northern Tigray region had killed thousands of people during the year of war.

The FAA advisory said there's been no disruption at Bole International airport and "no indication of an intent to threaten civil aviation," but the risk to approaching and departing planes could increase if the Tigray fighters move in on the capital.

The United States warned pilots that planes operating at the Addis Ababa international airport, one of Africa's busiest airports, could be "directly or indirectly exposed to ground weapons fire and/or surface-to-air fire."

The Tigray fighters "likely possess a variety of anti-aircraft capable weapons, including rocket-propelled grenades, anti-tank weapons, low-caliber anti-aircraft artillery, and man-portable air-defense systems," or MANPADS, which could reach up to 25,000 feet above ground level, the FAA advisory said.

Vicky Ford, the U.K. Minister for Africa, told reporters last week that Britain now advises against all travel to Ethiopia apart from the airport for departures and transfers.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Airport, War
The United States Federal Aviation Administration warned pilots on November 17 that planes operating at the airport could be "directly or indirectly exposed to ground weapons fire and/or surface-to-air fire," citing the "ongoing clashes" between Ethiopian forces and fighters from the northern Tigray region. Planes sit on the tarmac at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia on March 10. Cara Anna/AP Photo

The Addis Ababa international airport is the hub for the state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, a symbol of Ethiopia's former status as one of the world's most rapidly growing economies before the war. The airline in recent years became Africa's largest and best-managed carrier, turning Addis Ababa into the gateway to the continent. Addis Ababa is also the continent's diplomatic capital as home of the African Union.

The Tigray forces who had long dominated the national government before current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018 have approached Addis Ababa in recent weeks and joined up with another armed group, the Oromo Liberation Army, with the aim of pressing Abiy to step aside.

The Tigray forces also said they are pressuring Ethiopia's government to lift a months-long blockade on the Tigray region, which includes an Ethiopian government restriction on flights over Tigray. No food, medicine or other humanitarian aid has entered Tigray, a region of some 6 million people, for more than a month since Ethiopia's military resumed airstrikes there for the first time since June.

Efforts by an AU envoy, former Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, and U.S. envoy Jeffrey Feltman continue to nudge the warring sides to agree to a cease-fire and talks.

Ethiopia's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Dina Mufti, told reporters Thursday that both Obasanjo and Feltman are in Ethiopia, but he didn't give details. He said it wasn't yet clear what the AU envoy, who is meant to be leading the efforts, was proposing and described Obasanjo's recent visits to the Tigray regional capital as a "fact-finding" mission.

Ethiopian Airlines seized the world's attention in 2019 when the crash of a Boeing 737 Max shortly after takeoff from Addis Ababa killed 157 people. That and the earlier crash of another brand-new 737 Max off the coast of Indonesia had far-reaching consequences for the aeronautics industry as it brought about the grounding of Boeing 737 Max jets until late last year.