Ethiopian authorities have confirmed incidents of rape took place in the conflict-hit Tigray region in the wake of a military offensive against the local ruling party.
It comes after the UN said it had received reports of a high number of sexual violence and abuse in the region, including of individuals forced to rape members of their own family.
“We have received the report back from our Taskforce team on the ground in the Tigray region, they have unfortunately established rape has taken place conclusively and without a doubt,” Minister of Women Filsan Abdullahi tweeted.
The minister said a task force is still processing data to establish the number of victims.
She said the government is “strengthening the protection and prevention of gender-based violence against women in the Tigray region.”
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched a ground and air offensive on 4 November to oust the region’s ruling party, after its troops captured federal military bases.
He declared victory in Tigray after a month’s conflict, but fugitive TPLF leaders vowed to continue the fight.
Access remains a huge challenge for humanitarian groups wanting to deliver much-needed food aid and medical care.
Aid agencies have recently estimated that 4.5 million people are in need – more than 60% of Tigray’s population, but the Ethiopian government said only 2.5 million people are in need and says it can reach almost all of them.
The president of the Ethiopian Red Cross Society said 80% of Tigray’s population was still unable to get humanitarian assistance, and thousands could starve to death within weeks.