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Eritrean soldiers blamed for 500 rapes in Ethiopia

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Refugees gather in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, after fleeing fighting in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Photo: Marwan Ali/ AP

Refugees gather in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, after fleeing fighting in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Photo: Marwan Ali/ AP

Refugees gather in Qadarif, eastern Sudan, after fleeing fighting in the Tigray region of Ethiopia. Photo: Marwan Ali/ AP

More than 500 rape cases have been reported to five clinics in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the United Nations said, warning that the actual numbers might be far higher.

Women say they have been raped by armed actors, they also told stories of gang rape, rape in front of family members and men being forced to rape their own family members under the threat of violence,” Wafaa Said, deputy UN aid coordinator in Ethiopia, told the UN in New York.

She said at least 516 rape cases had been reported by five medical facilities .

“Given the fact that most health facilities are not functioning and also the stigma associated with rape, it is projected that actual numbers are much higher,” she added.

Ethiopia’s UN ambassador, Taye Atskeselassie Amde, said his government took the allegations of sexual violence “very seriously” and had deployed a fact-finding mission.

“Ethiopia has a zero-tolerance policy for sexual crimes and anyone found responsible for the despicable acts will be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” he said.

Dozens of witnesses in Tigray say soldiers from neighbouring Eritrea routinely killed civilians, gang-raped and tortured women and looted households and crops during the conflict.

Eritrea’s Information Minister Yemane Gebremeskel, responding in general terms to the UN briefing, said yesterday that sexual violence and rape “are an abomination to Eritrean society” and should be harshly punished if they occurred.

Fighting in Tigray broke out last November between government troops and the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

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