An internal U.S. government report obtained by The New York Times says that Ethiopia is conducting “a systematic campaign of ethnic cleansing” under the cover of war in the Tigray region, an area largely controlled by Amhara militias in the northern part of the country.
The Times says the report, written earlier in February, describes “in stark terms a land of looted houses and deserted villages where tens of thousands of people are unaccounted for.”
According to the Times, the report finds that Ethiopian officials and allied militia fighters from the neighboring Amhara region, who moved into Tigray in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, are “deliberately and efficiently rendering Western Tigray ethnically homogeneous through the organized use of force and intimidation.”
The report says some people fled into the bush or crossed illegally into Sudan, while others were rounded up and forcibly relocated to other parts of Tigray, according to the newspaper.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement Saturday that the United States is “gravely concerned by reports of atrocities and the overall deteriorating situation in the Tigray.”
The U.S. “has repeatedly engaged the Ethiopian government on the importance of ending the violence, ensuring unhindered humanitarian access to Tigray, and allowing a full, independent, international investigation into all reports of human rights violations, abuses, and atrocities,” Blinken said, adding that those responsible for them “must be held accountable.”
Blinken called on the African Union, and regional and international partners to work with the U.S. to “address the crisis in Tigray, including through action at the UN and other relevant bodies.”
Blinken also addressed the activity of Eritrean soldiers in Tigray.
“The immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces from Tigray are essential first steps,” Blinken said. “They should be accompanied by unilateral declarations of cessation of hostilities by all parties to the conflict and a commitment to permit unhindered delivery of assistance to those in Tigray.”
The lead Republican in U.S. House of Representative Foreign Affairs Committee, Michael McCaul, also issued a statement Saturday, urging the Biden administration “to take decisive action to hold those accountable for any atrocities committed” in the Tigray region.
“This must be a high priority as the U.S. takes on the role of U.N. Security Council Chair next month,” McCaul said.
The armed conflict in Tigray has taken thousands of people’s lives. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes as a result. The region of more than 5 million people is facing shortages of food, water and medicine.