File Photo: Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed attends a signing ceremony with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia taken on December 7, 2019. REUTERS
Ethiopia said Wednesday that 22 officials from the interim administration in the country's Tigray region had been killed by forces loyal to its former ruling party during the six-month conflict there.
A government statement said 20 others had been "kidnapped" and four more "wounded and hospitalised."
It was the first time the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had disclosed the toll of attacks by Tigrayan forces, who federal officials have long claimed would be unable to mount an effective insurgency.
Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops into Tigray in early November to detain and disarm leaders of the regional party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).
He said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.
Though he vowed the conflict would be swift, more than six months later fighting continues, reports of atrocities are proliferating and world leaders are warning of a potential humanitarian catastrophe.
The attacks on interim administration officials were perpetrated "by TPLF fighters that claim to be fighting for the people of Tigray but have rather been actively engaged in the destruction of property, killing and kidnapping" of those "tasked with bringing stability to the region," Wednesday's statement said.
It did not provide details on the attacks or specify whether those "kidnapped" had since been released, but it did make clear that such violence was unfolding throughout Tigray.
Nine officials have been killed in the region's Northeast Zone and six in the Central Zone, where heavy fighting has been reported in recent months, the statement said.
"In addition, TPLF have continued to burn down houses and fire ammunitions into households," it said.
Abiy is under mounting international pressure to bring the conflict to an end but has made clear he has no intention of negotiating with TPLF leaders.
On Sunday US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced visa restrictions targeting Ethiopian and Eritrean officials accused of fuelling the conflict, saying those involved had "taken no meaningful steps to end hostilities."
The restrictions will also apply to TPLF members and forces from the Amhara region, which borders Tigray to the south.
Ethiopia denounced the move Monday and said it could prompt Abiy to reassess the bilateral relationship.