Tigray’s battle-hardened, powerful military also took the lead in Ethiopia’s war against neighbouring Eritrea that raged from 1998 to 2000 over disputed border territory.
The war was only declared officially over in 2018 in a peacemaking effort by Abiy, which won him the Nobel Peace Prize.
The fortunes of the TPLF have waned since Abiy came to power in 2018 after years of anti-government protests forced his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn to step down.
Under Abiy, Tigray’s leaders have complained of being unfairly targeted in corruption prosecutions, removed from top positions and broadly scapegoated for the country’s woes.
A year ago, the TPLF withdrew from the ruling coalition after Abiy merged it into the nationwide Prosperity Party.
The feud became more intense after Tigray held its own elections in September, defying Abiy’s government which postponed national polls due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Addis Ababa ruled the Tigray government was unlawful and, in return, Tigray said it no longer recognised Abiy’s administration.