(Bloomberg) --

The administrator of Ethiopia’s northern Amhara province urged adults to enlist in the regional force and fight rebels in the neighboring Tigray area, potentially opening up a new front in the nine-month conflict.

Chief Administrator Agegnehu Teshager told ethnic Amhara over 18 years old to join the war for the “existence of the region,” after the Tigray fighting spilled over into towns on the border with the Amhara and Afar regions earlier this month.

The conflict in Tigray began in November when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an incursion in retaliation for an attack on a federal army base by forces loyal to the Tigray People Liberation Front, the region’s dissident ruling party. The violence has led to thousands of deaths and displaced more than two million people.

What to Know About Ethiopia’s Challenge in Tigray: QuickTake

The Ethiopian National Defense Forces withdrew from Tigray after Abiy unilaterally declared a cease-fire at the end of June, which saw TPLF forces retake control and spread the campaign to other areas.

“The terrorist group is fighting against Afar and Amhara people,” Agegnehu said of TPLF on regional broadcaster Amhara Media Corp. “The people, the military and the special forces are fighting back and we will continue fighting until we completely cleanse this group. The war is for the survival of the Amhara people.”

Calls to Getachew Reda, a TPLF spokesman, didn’t connect when Bloomberg sought comment. Getachew has previously said Tigray is not attempting to gain territory outside its region and is instead trying to “degrade enemy forces.”

Billene Seyoum, a spokeswoman for the prime minister’s office, didn’t pick up calls or immediately respond to questions sent by text message.

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