Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Tuesday publicly acknowledged for the first time the possibility of war crimes in the country's northern region of Tigray, where the national army has been fighting the Tigray People's Liberation Front since late last year.
"Reports indicate that atrocities have been committed in Tigray region," Abiy said while addressing lawmakers in the capital, Addis Ababa.
There have been allegations against Ethiopian soldiers for months now, but journalists and aid agencies have increasingly gained access to the region in recent weeks, providing a clearer picture of what's happening on the ground. Last week, for example, CNN published a report detailing accounts of sexual violence against Tigrayan women.
Abiy said Tuesday that any soldiers who were found to have raped women or committed other crimes would be held responsible, though he still hedged, suggesting that at least some of the claims are TPLF "propaganda." He also accused fighters loyal to the TPLF of committing a massacre in the town of Mai Kadra, which he called "the worst" in the conflict. "But it's not getting enough attention," he said.
Tuesday also marks the first time Abiy admitted the Eritrean army, whose soldiers have also been accused of committing atrocities, did indeed cross the border into Tigray. He claims it did so only because it feared being attacked by Tigrayan forces, but said "any damage it did to our people was unacceptable." Read more at The Associated Press and Al Jazeera.