Ethiopia says U.N. team shot at in Tigray after defying checkpoints

By Katharine Houreld ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - A United Nations team visiting refugees in Ethiopia's war-hit Tigray region had failed to stop at two checkpoints when it was shot at over the weekend, the government said on Tuesday, proclaiming it did not need a 'baby-sitter'. The U.N. security team was seeking access to the Shimelba camp for Eritrean refugees when they were fired at on Sunday.

Reuters December 09, 2020 00:12:07 IST
Ethiopia says U.N. team shot at in Tigray after defying checkpoints

Ethiopia says UN team shot at in Tigray after defying checkpoints

By Katharine Houreld

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - A United Nations team visiting refugees in Ethiopia's war-hit Tigray region had failed to stop at two checkpoints when it was shot at over the weekend, the government said on Tuesday, proclaiming it did not need a "baby-sitter".

The U.N. security team was seeking access to the Shimelba camp for Eritrean refugees when they were fired at on Sunday. A U.N. spokesman in Nairobi did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's army has battled the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in the northern region since Nov. 4.

Thousands are feared dead and the U.N. estimates that more than 950,000 people have been displaced by the conflict, around 50,000 of them into neighbouring Sudan. The Ethiopian government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the U.N. estimate.

Redwan Hussein, spokesman for the Ethiopian government's task force for Tigray, told reporters that the U.N. team passed through two checkpoints without stopping while driving hastily to an unauthorized area.

"When they were about to break the third one they were shot at and detained," he said.

Two diplomatic sources told Reuters the U.N. team encountered uniformed Eritrean troops, though both Ethiopia and Eritrea have denied any incursion over the border by President Isaias Afwerki's military.

Abiy and Afwerki signed a peace pact ending two decades of hostilities in 2018 and now regard the TPLF as a mutual foe.

Ethiopia's army has captured the regional capital Mekelle and declared victory, but TPLF leaders say they are fighting back on various fronts around the highland city.

"There are a few remnants of the militia or special forces not yet controlled ... kind of hooligans, outlaws," Redwan said.

ETHIOPIA: 'WE CALL THE SHOTS'

Most communications in Tigray are down and access to the area is severely restricted, making it hard to verify either side's statements. It was not immediately possible to reach the TPLF for comment on the latest government statements.

The United Nations and aid agencies are pressing for safe access to Tigray, which is home to more than 5 million people and where 600,000 relied on food aid even before the conflict.

"The agreement we entered with the U.N. was in the belief that the U.N. would coordinate with us but the government would call the shots," Redwan said, emphasizing that Ethiopia was capable of helping its own people.

He also said the government would investigate any reports of atrocities or mass killings and allow independent probes if needed. "Ethiopia is being run by a strong functional government," he added. "It doesn't need a babysitter."

In Mekelle, a doctor reached by Reuters said the hospital where he works was "totally non-functional" due to lack of electricity, fuel for generators, oxygen and medical supplies. Medics were unable to perform emergency surgery or effectively treat patients for problems such as childbirth complications and diabetes.

"Patients are dying outside and inside the hospital," he wrote in a message, saying that he was aware of three women who died after delivering babies at home and an infant on a ventilator who died because there was no oxygen.

Ethiopian federal troops were inside the hospital and have not intimidated medical staff or looted, the doctor added.

'PEOPLE CAN NO LONGER WAIT'

The government has said it was delivering aid in areas that it controlled, but relief agencies are increasingly frustrated at the difficult access to Tigray.

The Norwegian Refugee Council said it had waited weeks for clearance to deliver food, shelters and other essentials.

"Children, women and men in Tigray have now borne the brunt of this conflict for more than a month without any emergency assistance from outside the region," it said.

"These people can no longer be made to wait. Aid must not be left at a standstill."

The International Committee of the Red Cross said it had begun distributing clean water in Mekelle.

U.N. refugee agency UNHCR voiced concern at reports some among the 96,000 Eritrean refugees in north Ethiopia were fleeing - within Tigray but also to Sudan and other regions of Ethiopia including Amhara and the capital Addis Ababa.

Many refugees say they have fled repression and forced conscription; Eritrea's government accuses Western powers of smearing it and luring its citizens away.

(Reporting by Katharine Houreld; Additional reporting by Emma Farge in Geneva; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne and Maggie Fick; Editing by Philippa Fletcher and Alex Richardson)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

Updated Date:

TAGS:

also read

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources
| Reuters
World

France, Germany to agree to NATO role against Islamic State - sources | Reuters

By Robin Emmott and John Irish | BRUSSELS/PARIS BRUSSELS/PARIS France and Germany will agree to a U.S. plan for NATO to take a bigger role in the fight against Islamic militants at a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, but insist the move is purely symbolic, four senior European diplomats said.The decision to allow the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to join the coalition against Islamic State in Syria and Iraq follows weeks of pressure on the two allies, who are wary of NATO confronting Russia in Syria and of alienating Arab countries who see NATO as pushing a pro-Western agenda."NATO as an institution will join the coalition," said one senior diplomat involved in the discussions. "The question is whether this just a symbolic gesture to the United States

China's Xi says navy should become world class
| Reuters
World

China's Xi says navy should become world class | Reuters

BEIJING Chinese President Xi Jinping on Wednesday called for greater efforts to make the country's navy a world class one, strong in operations on, below and above the surface, as it steps up its ability to project power far from its shores.China's navy has taken an increasingly prominent role in recent months, with a rising star admiral taking command, its first aircraft carrier sailing around self-ruled Taiwan and a new aircraft carrier launched last month.With President Donald Trump promising a US shipbuilding spree and unnerving Beijing with his unpredictable approach on hot button issues including Taiwan and the South and East China Seas, China is pushing to narrow the gap with the U.S. Navy.Inspecting navy headquarters, Xi said the navy should "aim for the top ranks in the world", the Defence Ministry said in a statement about his visit."Building a strong and modern navy is an important mark of a top ranking global military," the ministry paraphrased Xi as saying.