The volunteers are searching for Tigrayan rebels, and their supporters, under new state of emergency regulations introduced by the Ethiopian government in response to a Tigrayan military offensive.
Critics say thousands of people have been unjustly detained, but the clampdown appears to have widespread support in the capital.
Ethiopia’s Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, recently announced he was heading to the frontlines to lead his troops.
Video footage, provided by the government, showed him in uniform surrounded by soldiers, apparently in the arid Afar region north-east of the capital.
TPLF officials — who recently shared drone footage of thousands of Ethiopian prisoners of war — insist they are continuing to advance on several fronts, with much of the focus now on a key city, Debre Birhan, widely seen as the last major Ethiopian defensive position outside the capital.