“New waves” of displacement reported in western Tigray, UN says

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“New waves” of displacement reported in western Tigray, UN says

The United Nations on Wednesday expressed concern over reports of large-scale displacement from western Tigray, part of the war-stricken region of Ethiopia where the United States has already warned of ethnic cleansing.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR and other agencies have “received very worrying reports of new waves of displacement” from the border territory of Sudan and Eritrea, UNHCR said in a statement.

“Authorities in the Tigray area report 8,000 new arrivals, potentially up to 20,000,” UNHCR said.

“However, at this point, we cannot corroborate or confirm these figures.”

Several witnesses have reported to AFP massive roundups of Tigrayan civilians in western Tigray in recent days.

The region has been bitterly contested throughout the brutal year-long war in northern Ethiopia between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group.

In November 2020, after Abiy sent troops to overthrow the then-ruling TPLF from Tigray, forces from the neighboring region of Amhara rushed to occupy and administer western Tigray.

Amhara officials argue that the fertile land rightfully belongs to them and was illegally annexed by the TPLF three decades ago.

As Amhara civilians poured in over the past year, Tigrayans have fled by the tens of thousands – either west to Sudan or east, deeper into Tigray.

The exodus was so dramatic that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Congress in March that “acts of ethnic cleansing” had taken place.

While the TPLF managed to regain control of most of Tigray in late June, western Tigray continues to be patrolled by Amhara security forces and Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers.

The TPLF has promised to “liberate” western Tigray, but the region has not seen heavy fighting in recent months, with the rebels instead pressing south towards the capital Addis Ababa.

In Humera, the largest city in western Tigray, security forces placed Tigrayan civilians – mostly elderly people, women and children – on 21 eastbound buses on Saturday, a resident said. anonymity for security reasons.

“They told them to carry their luggage and their clothes and took them to the Tekeze River,” said the resident.

“I’m hiding now.”

Amhara officials did not respond to requests for comment on conditions in western Tigray.

A joint UN mission is planned “in the areas where the new arrivals are, which will allow us to better understand the situation,” UNHCR said in its statement on Wednesday.

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