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ERITREA told the United Nations security council today that it is pulling its troops out of Ethiopia, the day after the council issued a statement condemning rape and sexual violence in the Tigray region.
A letter sent to the 15-member council contained Eritrea’s first admission of involvement in the conflict in neighbouring Ethiopia.
UN spokesman Mark Lowcock said on Thursday that he had not seen any evidence that Eritrean soldiers had withdrawn from the restive northern state.
“As the looming grave threat has been largely thwarted, Eritrea and Ethiopia have agreed, at the highest levels, to embark on the withdrawal of Eritrean forces and the simultaneous redeployment of Ethiopian contingents along the international boundary,” Eritrea’s ambassador to the UN Sophia Tesfamriam said in the letter.
Thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands displaced since Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a military offensive aimed at driving out the region’s ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front last November.
Hundreds of women have given horrific accounts of rape and gang rape, including men being forced at gunpoint to have sex with their own relatives.
On Thursday, the security council issued its first statement on the situation, expressing “deep concern” over the allegations of atrocities in Tigray, “including reports of sexual violence against women and girls.” It called for independent investigations and for those responsible to be held to account.
Mr Lowcock said the victims included girls as young as eight, with rape being used “as a weapon of war.”
But Ms Tesfamriam rejected what she called the “false allegations” of organised sexual violence and hunger.
“The allegations of rape and other crimes lodged against Eritrean soldiers are not just outrageous but also a vicious attack on the culture and history of our people,” she wrote.
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