The United States expressed concern Friday about reports of ethnically motivated atrocities in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

“We note with the utmost alarm that thousands of Ethiopians of Tigrayan ethnicity reportedly continue to be detained arbitrarily in life-threatening conditions in western Tigray,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said in a statement.

He said the United States was “deeply troubled” by the recent findings of a joint report by two leading human rights groups, Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, which had found the violence in the region amounted to ethnic cleansing.

The report chronicles abuse by forces from the Amhara region, aided by government troops and militia groups. It said hundreds of civilians in western Tigray had been forced from their homes through threats, sexual violence, denial of aid and unlawful killings.

It also found evidence of deaths in detention facilities across western Tigray and gang rape by security forces.

Researchers said they based their findings on interviews with more than 400 residents of western Tigray.

Ethiopia’s government, while saying it would carefully examine the report, also criticized it for being one-sided.

Began in 2020

The conflict in Tigray began in late 2020 between the Ethiopian federal government and a local military force, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, and has since exploded into a civil war that has forced 2 million people from their homes. Ethnic tensions between the region’s Amhara and Tigray communities have spanned decades.

The United States urged the immediate release of people detained arbitrarily in western Tigray and demanded international monitors be granted access to all detention facilities, according to Price.

It is the U.S. position that there be “credible investigations into and accountability for atrocities committed by any party to the conflict,” Price said.

Aid agencies have struggled to gain access to the millions in need of humanitarian assistance in Tigray because of restrictions by the government and militia groups.

The United Nations and humanitarian partners have not been able to move any further aid into Tigray by road since April 2, U.N. spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Friday. The April convoy’s arrival was the first time U.N. supplies had entered Tigray by road since mid-December, he added.

Dujarric said food had reached only 1.2 million out of a target of 5.2 million people who should be receiving food aid in the region every six weeks.

Some information for this report came from Reuters.

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