Dozens of UN drivers detained in Ethiopia

Dozens of UN drivers detained in Ethiopia
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Dozens of United Nations drivers have been detained in Ethiopia following mass arrests of Tigrayans and the detention of 16 U.N. staffers and dependents.

A U.N. spokesperson stated that 72 drivers who worked with the U.N.’s World Food Programme have been arrested in the city of Semera, Reuters reported

The spokesperson did not list the ethnicity of those arrested, saying the U.N. is working to secure all its employees' release.

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On Tuesday, the U.N. said at least 16 staffers and dependents were detained, declining to list their ethnicities again. 

"These are United Nations staff members, they're Ethiopians ... and we would like to see them released, whatever ethnicity is listed on their identity cards," spokeswoman Stephane Dujarric said at the time.

The arrest came a week after Ethiopia declared a state of emergency in its civil war due to rebel forces getting close to the capital. 

The war between the government and the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) has raged on for a year, killing thousands.

Reports of mass arrests of Tigrayans were recorded on Tuesday, with the government denying they were arresting Tigrayans due to their ethnicity.

"Those that have been detained are Ethiopians who violate the law," Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulo said.

Daniel Bekele, head of the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, said the group was closely watching the arrest of “hundreds” of Tigrayans.

Many countries have ordered their citizens out of Ethiopia following their state of emergency declaration due to the volatile situation. 

The U.N. and the Ethiopian government have clashed multiple times over the U.N.’s accusation the government was blocking humanitarian aid.