Ethiopian Prime Minister Admits Eritrean Involvement in War
(Bloomberg) -- Ethiopia’s prime minister admitted for the first time that troops from neighboring Eritrea supported his nation’s army in a conflict against dissident leaders of its northern Tigray region.
Abiy Ahmed said Eritrean forces crossed into Ethiopian territory after government forces began an incursion into Tigray in November. They intervened to protect their border, he said in response to questions from lawmakers Tuesday in the capital, Addis Ababa.
Abiy’s comments come after the U.S. called for an immediate withdrawal of Eritrean troops from Tigray and the United Nations warned of a dire humanitarian crisis in the northern Ethiopian region. Last month, rights group Amnesty International reported that Eritrean troops massacred hundreds of civilians in the northern Ethiopian town of Axum in November.
The premier also acknowledged human-rights abuses by armed parties in the conflict and vowed to bring the perpetrators to justice. He didn’t identify those suspected of carrying out the atrocities.
“There have been rapes and destruction of property,” Abiy said. “Anyone who raped our Tigrayan sisters, anybody that is involved in looting will be held accountable in a court of law.”
Abiy ordered an incursion into Tigray after soldiers allied to the region’s former ruling party attacked a federal military camp in the area, the culmination of months of tension between national and provincial authorities. While Abiy declared victory on Nov. 28, about three weeks after the incursion started, fighting is still continuing.
Top Ethiopian officials have previously denied that Eritrean forces were involved in the conflict, while the Eritrean government hasn’t commented on the matter.
The conflict has so far cost more than $1 billion in damage to infrastructure including telecommunication lines, power facilities, roads and Tigray’s airport, Abiy said. The government said earlier it has provided humanitarian assistance for at least 4.2 million people in the region.
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