Ethiopia has said its federal forces have freed 1,000 soldiers who were “kidnapped” in the northern state of Tigray by fighters linked to the now-overthrown regional administration. Among those freed was the deputy head of the Northern Command – a military base that was attacked in early November triggering the conflict.

The Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) – which previously controlled the state – has not responded to the claim. The federal government had two weeks ago said the conflict was over, but the UN has warned of an “appalling impact on civilians”.

Nearly 50,000 people who fled the conflict have already crossed the border to neighbouring Sudan. The authorities in Addis Ababa reject the possibility of an insurgency in Tigray whilst admitting to “sporadic” clashes.

Little has been heard from the TPLF in recent days, but earlier they had vowed to continue fighting as long federal troops – whom they call invaders- remain in Tigray.

The UN has warned that the situation in the state may be “spiralling out of control” with appalling humanitarian consequences.