The UN Security Council will discuss the humanitarian situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region on Thursday behind closed doors, two UN diplomats have told CNN.
The development comes after investigations were published by CNN and Amnesty International last Friday into the massacre of civilians in two separate assaults in Tigray late last year.
Thousands of civilians are believed to have been killed since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military operation against leaders in the Tigray region. CNN has previously reported that soldiers from neighboring Eritrea have perpetrated many of the extrajudicial killings, assaults and human rights abuses in the Tigray region.
Following the release of the investigations, Ethiopia has come under pressure from the United States to prevent further violence.
US Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke Tuesday with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed “to emphasize the United States’ concern about the humanitarian and human rights crisis in Ethiopia’s Tigray region,” according to the State Department.
“Noting the growing number of credible reports of atrocities and human rights violations and abuses, the Secretary urged the Ethiopian government to take immediate, concrete steps to protect civilians, including refugees, and to prevent further violence. Secretary Blinken pressed for the immediate end to hostilities and the withdrawal of outside forces from Tigray, including Amhara regional security forces and Eritrean troops,” a readout of the call said.
This followed a statement Saturday, in which Blinken said the US was “gravely concerned by reported atrocities and the overall deteriorating situation” and urged “the immediate withdrawal of Eritrean forces and Amhara regional forces from Tigray.”
Ethiopia’s foreign ministry on Monday rejected Blinken’s criticism, saying it was “regrettable” that the US had attempted “to make pronouncements on Ethiopia’s internal affairs and specifically, the reference to the Amhara regional forces redeployment.”
“It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government, which as a sovereign nation, is responsible to deploy the necessary security structures and means available in ensuring the rule of law within all corners of its borders,” the ministry said in a statement.
Later Monday, the ousted leader of Ethiopia’s Tigray region accused the federal government and its Eritrean allies of genocide and other crimes against humanity, calling on US President Joe Biden to dial up the pressure against “invader forces.”
In a rare and exclusive interview with CNN, Debretsion Gebremichael, President of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), called for an independent probe into alleged killings, rape and violence, including those revealed in the CNN investigation.
Eyewitnesses told CNN that a group of Eritrean soldiers opened fire in November on Maryam Dengelat church in Dengelat village, in Tigray’s east, while hundreds of congregants were celebrating mass. Dozens of people died over three days of mayhem, with soldiers slaughtering local residents, displaced people and pilgrims, they said.
Amnesty International charged in its report Friday that Eritrean forces killed hundreds of unarmed civilians in the city of Axum in November through indiscriminate shelling and shooting and extrajudicial killings, in what the human rights organization said could amount to a crime against humanity.
Eritrea’s government denied involvement in the atrocities reported by Amnesty, but has yet to respond to CNN’s request for comment in relation to the Dengelat massacre.
CNN’s Barbara Arvanitidis, Nima Elbagir, Eliza Mackintosh, Bethlehem Feleke, Katie Polglase and Gianluca Mezzofiore contributed to this report.