Ethiopia rebuffs US call to pull outside forces from Tigray

KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — Ethiopia’s government is rebuffing calls by the United States to withdraw troops from the embattled Tigray region.

In response to U.S Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s call for Ethiopia to immediately withdraw troops from Tigray, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said that it is an issue to be decided by the Addis Ababa government, not a foreign power.

“It should be clear that such matters are the sole responsibility of the Ethiopian government,” Ethiopia’s foreign ministry said in a statement issued Sunday. “The Ethiopian government, like any government of a sovereign nation, has in place various organizing principles in its federal and regional structures which are solely accountable only to the Ethiopian people.”

No foreign country should try to “dictate a sovereign nation’s internal affairs,” said the Ethiopian statement.

Alarm is growing over the fate of Tigray’s 6 million people as fierce fighting reportedly continues between Ethiopian and allied forces and those supporting the now-fugitive Tigray leaders who once dominated Ethiopia’s government.

The United Nations in its latest humanitarian report on the situation in Tigray says the “humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate” as fighting intensifies across the northern region.

“Aid workers on the ground have reported hearing gunshots from the main cities, including in Mekelle and Shire,” the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on Sunday. “Residents and aid workers on the ground continue reporting incidents of house searches and indiscriminate looting, including of household items, farming equipment, ambulances and office vehicles, allegedly by various armed actors.”

No one knows how many thousands of civilians have been killed. Humanitarian officials have warned that a growing number of people might be starving to death in Tigray.

Accounts of atrocities by Ethiopian and allied forces against residents of Tigray were detailed in reports by The Associated Press and by Amnesty International. Ethiopia’s federal government and regional officials in Tigray both believe that each other’s governments are illegitimate after the pandemic disrupted elections.