Eritrean troops disguised as Ethiopian military are blocking critical aid in Tigray

Eritrean troops disguised as Ethiopian military are blocking critical aid in Tigray

By Nima Elbagir, Barbara Arvanitidis and Eliza Mackintosh
Video by Alex Platt and Mark Baron, CNN
Updated 9:30 AM ET, Wed May 12, 2021

Axum, Ethiopia (CNN) — Eritrean troops are operating with total impunity in Ethiopia’s war-torn northern Tigray region, killingraping and blocking humanitarian aid to starving populations more than a month after the country’s Nobel Peace Prize winning leader pledged to the international community that they would leave.

CNN team traveling through Tigray’s central zone witnessed Eritrean soldiers, some disguising themselves in old Ethiopian military uniforms, manning checkpoints, obstructing and occupying critical aid routes, roaming the halls of one of the region’s few operating hospitals and threatening medical staff.

Despite pressure from the Biden administration, there is no sign that Eritrean forces plan to exit the border region anytime soon.

On April 21, a CNN team reporting in Tigray with the permission of Ethiopian authorities traveled from the regional capital Mekelle to the besieged city of Axum, two weeks after it had been sealed off by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers. An aid convoy also made the seven-hour journey.

Ethiopia’s government has severely restricted access to the media until recently, and a state-enforced communications blackout concealed events in the region, making it challenging to gauge the extent of the crisis or verify survivors’ accounts.

But CNN’s interviews with humanitarian workers, doctors, soldiers and displaced people in Axum and across central Tigray — where up to 800,000 displaced people are sheltering — indicate the situation is even worse than was feared. Eritrean troops aren’t just working hand in glove with the Ethiopian government, assisting in a merciless campaign against the Tigrayan people, in some pockets they’re fully in control and waging a reign of terror.

The testimonies, shared at great personal risk, present a horrifying picture of the situation in Tigray, where a clash between Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), in November has deteriorated into a protracted conflict that, by many accounts, bears the hallmarks of genocide and has the potential to destabilize the wider Horn of Africa region.

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