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Ethiopian PM admits Eritrean presence in Tigray

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has admitted for the first time that Eritrean troops are operating in his country’s Tigray region.

He told the parliament on 23 March that Ethiopia was indebted to Eritrea for providing a refuge to soldiers who were forced to flee across the border when the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) launched a rebellion by attacking the Ethiopian military in November 2020.

“We are very grateful to the Eritrean people and government for what they did for us,” he said. “However, we do not condone any wrongdoing by Eritrean forces on our people by crossing the Ethiopian border.”

The Ethiopian National Defence Force (ENDF) managed to swiftly recapture Tigray’s major population centres, but the TPLF continues an insurgency and there is growing evidence that Eritrean, ENDF, and militia from the neighbouring Amhara region have carried out widespread looting and human rights abuses.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission released a preliminary report on 24 March saying that more than 100 civilians were killed by Eritrean soldiers in Axum on 28–29 November.

Abiy said his government has discussed the situation with Asmara several times, with the Eritreans responding that they were forced to secure border positions vacated by the ENDF and will withdraw once Ethiopian troops return.

He added that Asmara has condemned the abuses in Tigray and will hold any Eritrean soldiers who have been involved accountable. Eritrea has not publicly admitted its forces have crossed the border.

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