The United States imposed sanctions Monday on a top Eritrean defense official, citing Eritrea’s actions during the conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.
The Treasury Department said in a statement that it is sanctioning Filipos Woldeyohannes, the chief of staff of the Eritrean Defense Forces (EDF), accusing the forces of carrying out abuses in Tigray.
The Treasury Department said the EDF engaged in “despicable acts” in Tigray, including “massacres, looting and sexual assaults.”
“The EDF have purposely shot civilians in the street and carried out systematic house-to-house searches, executing men and boys, and have forcibly evicted Tigrayan families from their residences and taken over their houses and property,” it said.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a separate statement Monday, “The United States will continue to identify and pursue action against those involved in serious human rights abuse in Ethiopia and prolonging the ongoing conflict and humanitarian crisis.”
The Eritrean Ministry of Foreign Affairs rejected the U.S. allegations, calling them “utterly baseless.”
“Eritrea calls on the U.S. administration to bring the case to an independent adjudication if it indeed has facts to prove its false allegations,” the ministry said in a statement.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray last November, saying it was a response to attacks on federal army camps by forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Both Ethiopia and Eritrea denied for months that Eritrean troops were also in the region. Eritrea later acknowledged their presence, but denied they were involved in human rights abuses.
Tigrayan forces retook the regional capital Mekele in June, forcing a withdrawal of some Eritrean troops from the region. However, Blinken said in his statement Monday, “the United States is concerned that large numbers of EDF have reentered Ethiopia, after withdrawing in June.”
The United Nations says the fighting in Tigray has killed thousands of people and put hundreds of thousands of people in danger of famine.