ADDIS ABABA, Dec 18 (Reuters) – Ethiopia is offering a 10 million birr ($260,000) reward to anyone with information on the location of fugitive leaders of the rebellious force in the northern region of Tigray, the government said on Friday.

The reward to help capture leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was announced on state-run broadcaster EBC and later tweeted by the government’s taskforce on the Tigray crisis.

TPLF leaders, believed to be hiding in the mountains since the capital of the region was captured by federal forces on Nov 28, have said that they are fighting back. Reuters has not been able to reach them for comment for more than a week.

Thousands of people are believed to have been killed and nearly a million fled their homes during air strikes and ground battles in Tigray last month.

The conflict has raised concerns among Ethiopia’s international allies about the possible destabilisation of Africa’s second most populous nation.

The European Union has postponed nearly 90 million euros in budget support payments to Ethiopia due to the bloc’s concerns over the crisis, according to an internal EU document seen by Reuters on Wednesday.

Ethiopia, host to the African Union headquarters, is a diplomatic heavyweight in a volatile region and its troops are valued for their service in peacekeeping missions in Somalia and South Sudan.

Federal troops seized Tigray’s capital Mekelle on Nov. 28 and now control the major towns in the region. Some power and telephone links were restored earlier this week in Mekelle after a virtual communications blackout since the federal offensive began on Nov. 4.

The communications difficulties have made it difficult to verify accounts from all sides. ($1 = 38.6742 birr)

(Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom Writing by Maggie Fick Editing by Peter Graff)

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