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Eritrean Troops Continue to Commit Atrocities in Tigray, U.N. Says

NAIROBI, Kenya — Eritrean troops continue to commit atrocities in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray, despite assurances by Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, that they were leaving, a senior United Nations official said Thursday.

Mr. Abiy has come under pressure over reports of massacres, looting and sexual assaults by Eritrean troops. Last month, he flew to the Eritrean capital, Asmara, and announced that his ally, the autocratic Eritrean leader Isaias Afwerki, had agreed to bring his soldiers home.

But the U.N. and its humanitarian partners have seen no evidence that such a withdrawal has taken place, Mark Lowcock, the top U.N. humanitarian official, told the Security Council. In fact, Mr. Lowcock said, Eritrean soldiers had begun to disguise their identities by wearing Ethiopian military uniforms, and some had killed civilians during indiscriminate attacks as recently as Monday.

The Times obtained a transcript of Mr. Lowcock’s remarks, which were made in a private briefing. They paint a grim picture of the violence in Tigray, where a clash between Mr. Abiy and regional leaders in November has degenerated into a chaotic and pitiless conflict that threatens to destabilize the entire Horn of Africa region.

Civilians are still being driven from their homes in western Tigray, Mr. Lowcock said, despite condemnation of “ethnic cleansing” earlier this month by the United States Secretary of State, Antony J. Blinken.

Hunger is spreading with up to 150 people starving to death recently in one district south of the Tigrayan capital, Mekelle, Mr. Lowcock told the Security Council.

And almost one-third of all attacks on civilians involve sexual violence, the majority by men in uniform, he said. Girls as young as eight have been targeted.

In one instance, Mr. Lowcock said, Eritrean soldiers gang raped a woman in front of her children, days after her husband had been killed and she had lost a newborn baby.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” Mr. Lowcock said.

Such horrific accounts have come to define the conflict in Tigray. It was the fifth time that the Security Council had discussed the crisis behind closed doors since it erupted in November.

But beyond the expressions of condemnation and outrage, the international community has had little impact on the ground in Tigray where residents and aid workers say that the killing, assaults and starvation continue unabated.

The group Human Rights Watch says it is high time that the Security Council holds its discussion on Tigray in public, and comes up with concrete actions to stem the abuses.

“Tigrayans from all walks of life have repeatedly described feeling abandoned not only by their government but also the world,” Laetitia Bader, the Horn of Africa director for the group, said in a statement. “The U.N.’s most powerful body needs to end its paralysis.”

Rick Gladstone contributed reporting from New York.

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