Ethiopia legends Gebrselassie, Feyisa vow to join Tigray war

Ethiopian Olympic heroes Haile Gebrselassie and Feyisa Lilesa say they are ready to go to the front line in the war against rebel forces.

Their announcement comes after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he would go to the front to lead the war.

Tigrayan rebels say they are advancing towards the capital Addis Ababa.

Germany and France have become the latest countries to advise their citizens to leave Ethiopia, amid an escalation in the civil war.

Gebrselassie, 48, was quoted by state television as saying that Mr Abiy’s decision to go to battle was “expected from a leader who loves his country”.

“I am ready to do whatever is required of me, including going to the front line,” he said.

Gebrselassie is regarded as a legend in Ethiopia, and his comments were seen as an attempt to rally public support behind the war effort.

During his 25-year career as an athlete, he claimed two Olympic gold medals, eight World Championship victories and set 27 world records.

He announced his retirement from competitive running in 2015.

Expressing his support for the war, Feyisa, 31, was quoted by the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporation website as saying that Mr Abiy had made the ‘right decision’ by saying he would go to the front line to face the rebels.

He added that he too was ready to draw inspiration from the ‘gallantry of my forefathers’ and go to the front line to ‘save my country.’

The athlete won the marathon silver at the 2016 Rio Olympics.

He became famous for holding up his crossed wrists as if they were shackled to draw global attention to the crackdown on demonstrators demanding political reforms in Ethiopia. –BBC

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