BRUSSELS, 16 January 2021 – Incidents of ethnic targeted killings and possible war crimes are multiplying in Ethiopia’s northern region of Tigray, European Union (EU) officials have alleged.

“We receive consistent reports of ethnic-targeted violence, killings, massive looting, rapes, forceful returns of refugees [to Eritrea] and possible war crimes,” the EU foreign affairs chief, Josep Borrell Fontelles, said Friday in a statement.

The EU describes the situation in Tigray as dire, warning that the stability of the entire country may be on the line.

Ethiopian government officials say their forces have been using proportional force to restore law and order.

EU foreign minister Josep Borrell Fontelles

EU foreign minister Josep Borrell Fontelles – Photo EU Commission

The statement from Borrell Fontelles said the conflict is not a purely internal “law and order” operation.

Among others, the EU agrees with the United States that Eritrean troops were involved in military operations in Tigray.

The Ethiopian and Eritrean governments have denied the accusation.

The Eritrean government is accused of forcibly taking back Eritrean refugees.

Nearly 100,000 Eritrean refugees lived in four United Nations-run camps in Tigray, having fled tyranny and compulsory conscription in Eritrea.

Federal government forces were ordered into Tigray on 4 November 2020 after Addis Ababa claimed that soldiers of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) attacked a military base, killing 50 soldiers and stealing weapons.

Parade of Ethiopian federal forces

Parade of Ethiopian federal forces – Photo Minasse Wondimu Hailu/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Addis Ababa has said it is fighting a “criminal clique”.

Last November 28, the feeral government declared victory over the TPLF, but fighting has continued in several parts of Tigray, according to the United Nations.

Protest in South Africa against the war in Tigray - Photo AP/Themba Hadebe

Protest in South Africa against the war in Tigray – Photo AP/Themba Hadebe

TPLF party leaders have vowed to continue fighting.

More than two million people have been forced to flee their homes and have limited access to humanitarian assistance.

Although Tigrans make up only around six percent of Ethiopia’s 110 million inhabitants, their main political movement – TPLF – ruled Ethiopia for over 20 years until Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018.

The TPLF formed a ruling alliance with PM Abiy Ahmed which collapsed over the prime minister’s decision to postpone elections on account of COVID-19.

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