The U.S. State Department is stepping up its push for Americans in Ethiopia to leave the country immediately, amid fears the country’s internal war is about to escalate.

At a news briefing Monday, Senior State Department officials said U.S. citizens in Ethiopia should leave the country now while commercial flight options are still available.  

“Our core message is: Do not wait until the situation gets worse to decide to leave; leave before things change,” said one official, speaking on condition of anonymity. “The U.S. embassy is unlikely to be able to assist U.S. citizens in Ethiopia with departure if commercial options become unavailable.”

The official said there are no plans to bring the U.S. military into Ethiopia to facilitate evacuations, as the military recently did in Afghanistan. 

“There should be no expectation, particularly after we have issued so many warnings that advise departing immediately, that the U.S. will be able to facilitate evacuations via military or commercial aircraft in a non-permissive environment, including Ethiopia,” said the official. 

Officials said they did not have a firm number of how many Americans are in the East African country. 

The federal government led by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the rebel Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front have been at war for more than a year. On Monday, the prime minister said he would travel to the front lines to lead his troops against the advancing rebel fighters, who this week claimed control of Shewa Robit, a town 220 kilometers northeast of the capital, Addis Ababa. 

The U.S. embassy authorized the departure of non-essential U.S. government employees and family members from Ethiopia on November 3, and has since repeatedly warned Americans in the country to leave using commercial flights.

On Tuesday, the embassy also warned Americans in Ethiopia of the ongoing possibility of terrorist attacks. It urged U.S. citizens “to maintain a high level of vigilance and avoid areas frequented by foreigners.”

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