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16 local UN officials detained in Ethiopia during a campaign to end the war

A UN spokesperson said the UN had submitted a request to Ethiopia's foreign ministry to immediately release those detained in Addis Ababa. (IMAGE: Courtesy | theKR Media) ADDIS

A UN spokesperson said the UN had submitted a request to Ethiopia foreign ministry to immediately release those detained in Addis Ababa (PHOTO/Courtesy)

A United Nations representative on Tuesday reported that 22 Ethiopian staff members had been arrested and detained during government raids targeting ethnic Tigrayans in the capital Addis Ababa.

Six individuals have been released, but 16 remain in custody, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York.

“We are, of course, actively working with the Government of Ethiopia to secure their immediate release,” Dujarric said.

“There has been, as far as I know, no explanation given to us on why these staff members were detained,” he added.

Ethiopia’s state of emergency

The central government and members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have been engaged in armed conflict for the past year, with fighting intensifying in recent weeks.

The Ethiopian government put a state of six-month nationwide emergency in place on November 2 as rebels from the country’s northern Tigray region continue to threaten to advance to the capital.

The state of emergency allows government forces to arrest at will anyone suspected of supporting terrorist organizations — the government of Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy has declared the TPLF a terrorist organization.

Observers say such arrests have increased significantly over the past week, with possibly thousands being detained.

Police in Addis Ababa on Monday told reporters that they had been arresting TPLF “followers” and that the arrests were “not ethnically motivated at all.”

The US State Department has called reports of harassment against ethnic Tigrayans “concerning.” Spokesman Ned Price said detentions based on ethnicity were “completely unacceptable”.

“The reports do tend to suggest an arrest based on ethnicity and that is something that if confirmed, we would strongly condemn. So whatever we can do to secure the release of these individuals, we will be prepared to do,” he told reporters.

US, UK advise nationals to leave Ethiopia

On November 5, the US State Department “ordered the departure of non-emergency US government employees and their family members from Ethiopia due to armed conflict, civil unrest, and possible supply shortages.”

The UK on Tuesday also advised nationals to leave Ethiopia, saying, “The conflict has potential to escalate and spread quickly and with little warning.”

ADDITIONAL REPORTING : www.dw.com

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