US warns against attacks on Eritreans in Tigray, north of Ethiopia
MOGADISHU, Somalia - The US has raised concerns about attacks targeting Eritrean refugees in Tigray, adding that "such aggression ought to stop immediately". There is quite a number of Eritreans living in Tigray following displacement from their homes.
A spokesperson to the Stage Department on Tuesday said Washington is extremely "concerned" with the attacks, terming them "unnecessary and backward" in a statement.
"We are deeply concerned about credible reports of attacks by military forces affiliated with the Tigray Defense Forces [TDF] and the Tigrayan militias against Eritrean refugees in the Tigray region," State Department spokeswoman Jalina Porter told reporters.
TDF had vowed to pursue Eritrean troops who are accused of committing genocide in Tigray, and this might have informed attacks on the refugees. Eritrea borders the Tigray region of Ethiopia to the north and is a close ally of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
In a fresh sign of the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Ethiopia as violence spirals, the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR said on Tuesday it was concerned about 24,000 Eritrean refugees in two camps in the Tigray region, saying they were cut off from aid and could run out of food and drinking water.
Reports indicate that fighting between armed groups has escalated in and around the Mai Aini and Adi Harush camps, and two refugees have been killed this month, UNHCR said.
"We call on all armed actors in Tigray to stop attacks and intimidation against Eritrean forces and all refugees, asylum seekers and people displaced by the ongoing violence, as well as against the aid workers attempting to respond to the humanitarian disaster," Porter said.
Fighting first broke out in Tigray in November when the government accused the TPLF of attacking military bases across the region - an accusation the group denied.
The government declared victory three weeks later when it took the regional capital Mekelle, but the TPLF kept fighting and has since retaken most of Tigray.
Ethiopian troops withdrew from most of Tigray in late June when the TPLF retook Mekelle. The central government declared a unilateral ceasefire on what it said were humanitarian grounds but there is renewed tensions following Ethiopia's concerns about TDF conduct.
Thousands of people have died in the fighting, around 2 million have been displaced and more than 5 million rely on emergency food aid. The US has also asked parties involved to go slow by allowing humanitarian teams to move freely.