According to the UN, fighting in northern Ethiopia’s Afar region has “engulfed” a camp housing Eritrean refugees, killing five people and causing thousands to escape.
The attack earlier this month is the latest setback for Ethiopia’s over 100,000 Eritrean refugees, whose camps have been periodically engulfed in a 15-month war.
It also highlights the rising toll of violence in Afar, which has emerged as the most active front in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government’s struggle with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) rebel group in recent weeks.
Survivors of the incident on the Bahrale camp in Afar told the UN refugee agency that “at least five refugees were slain and numerous women were kidnapped” when armed men stormed the facility on February 3.
“Family members became separated in the confusion of exiting the camp,” according to the statement.
Near the border between Afar and Tigray is the Barahle camp.
The TPLF controls most of Tigray and declared in January that it had expanded operations into Afar, saying that it had been triggered by pro-government forces attacking its strongholds.
The UN statement on Friday did not say which troops were accused of targeting the camp by survivors.
However, AFP interviewed numerous survivors this week in Semera, the capital of Afar, who claimed the TPLF was to blame.
The TPLF was also blamed by area government officials and the national Refugees and Returnees Service.
These accusations could not be independently verified because the camp is still inaccessible.
Leaders of the TPLF could not be reached for comment on Friday.
“We condemn the attack on the refugee camp and reaffirm our request for an end to hostilities so that much-needed humanitarian aid can reach refugees and Ethiopians alike,” the UN statement added.