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According to Ethiopia’s chief, massacres were committed during the Tigray war.

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According to Ethiopia's chief, massacres were committed during the Tigray war.
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According to Ethiopia's chief, massacres were committed during the Tigray war.

According to Ethiopia’s chief, massacres were committed during the Tigray war.

 

Ethiopia’s president said on Tuesday that massacres had occurred in Tigray, his first public admission of potential war crimes in the country’s northern area, where fighting continues as government troops hunt down the country’s fugitive leaders.

In an address to lawmakers in Addis Ababa, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said, “Reports indicate that atrocities have been committed in the Tigray region.”

In the local Amharic language, Abiy described war as a “nasty thing.” “We are aware of the devastation that this war has wreaked.” Even though he cited “propaganda of exaggeration” by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the once-dominant group whose leaders questioned Abiy’s authority after the postponement of elections last year, he said soldiers who raped women or committed other war crimes would be held accountable.

Abiy spoke as the humanitarian situation in the troubled region, which is home to 6 million people, continues to worsen.

Some of the violations in the Tigray war have been labeled “ethnic cleansing” by the US, which Ethiopian authorities have rejected as baseless. It has also urged Eritrean troops fighting alongside Ethiopian government forces in Tigray to withdraw.

The Ethiopian prime minister, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 for his efforts to bring Eritrea and Ethiopia closer together, is under pressure to end the conflict in Tigray and launch an international investigation into suspected war crimes, preferably led by the United Nations. Critics of the government argue that an ongoing criminal investigation is insufficient because the government cannot adequately investigate itself.

Last week, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet’s spokesman in Geneva, Rupert Colville, told The Associated Press that Ethiopia’s Human Rights Commission had requested to enter her office in a “joint inquiry into reports of severe human rights abuses on all sides” in Tigray.

The Associated Press and Amnesty International have published reports detailing massacres committed by Ethiopian and allied forces against Tigray people.

However, Abiy said in his Tuesday speech, which included questions from lawmakers, that fighters loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front had carried out a massacre in Mai Kadra. “However, it is not receiving enough attention,” he said of the massacre, which he called “the worst” in the war.

The conflict in Tigray began in November, when Abiy dispatched government troops to the area in response to an assault on federal military facilities there. The federal army is now on the lookout for the fugitive regional leaders, who are said to have fled to Tigray’s remote mountainous regions.

While the region faced challenges such as a destructive locust invasion and the COVID-19 pandemic, Abiy accused Tigray’s leaders of drumming up “a war narrative.” According to a transcript of his remarks posted on Twitter by the prime minister’s office, he said, “This was misplaced and untimely arrogance.”

Sen. Chris Coons was dispatched to Ethiopia by President Joe Biden last week to express the administration’s “grave concerns” about the growing humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses in Tigray, as well as the risk of broader instability in the Horn of Africa. The visit of Coons over the weekend was kept under wraps.

Humanitarian officials have expressed concern that a growing number of people in Tigray may be starving to death. The fighting broke out just as the harvest was about to begin in the largely agricultural region, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes. Witnesses have reported widespread looting as well as crop burning by Eritrean soldiers.

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