U.S. expresses alarm over reports of atrocities in Tigray

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) -The United States expressed concern on Friday about reports of ethnically motivated atrocities in Ethiopia's Tigray region and called for an end to unlawful detentions based on ethnicity.

"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.

Ethiopia's government spokesperson Legesse Tulu and the prime minister's spokesperson Billene Seyoum did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The United States urges the immediate release of such detainees and calls for international monitors to be granted access to all detention facilities, Price said.

Two leading human rights groups on Wednesday accused armed forces from Ethiopia's Amhara region of waging a campaign of ethnic cleansing against ethnic Tigrayans during a war that has killed thousands of civilians and displaced more than a million.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a joint report that abuses by Amhara officials and regional special forces and militias during fighting in western Tigray amounted to war crimes and crimes against humanity. They also accused Ethiopia's military of complicity in those acts. [L2N2W41HR]

"We are deeply troubled by the report's finding that these acts amount to ethnic cleansing," Price said in a statement.

"It remains our firm position that there must be credible investigations into and accountability for atrocities committed by any party to the conflict as part of any lasting solution to the crisis," Price said.

The United States urged Ethiopia to cooperate with the U.N. Commission of Experts on Human Rights in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia's government said in a statement on Wednesday it was committed to holding all those responsible for violations of human rights and humanitarian law accountable.

Amhara government spokesman Gizachew Muluneh told Reuters this week the allegations of abuses and ethnic cleansing in western Tigray were "lies" and "fabricated" news.

In March of last year, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused forces from Amhara of committing "acts of ethnic cleansing."

Western Tigray has seen some of the worst violence in the war, which has pitted Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government and its allies from the Amhara region against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF dominated Ethiopia's government before Abiy's rise to power in 2018.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Chris Reese and Sandra Maler)