Ethiopian police seeking lists of ethnic Tigrayans - U.N. report

NAIROBI (Reuters) - Ethiopian police visited a U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) office in Amhara region to request a list of ethnic Tigrayan staff, according to an internal U.N. security report seen by Reuters on Friday.

The Ethiopian government, which is fighting rebellious leaders of Tigray region, said the police were pursuing suspects linked to Tigrayan authorities, not Tigrayans, and cautioned against any “misrepresentation” of the visit to WFP.

The U.N. report said that the local police chief informed the WFP office of “the order of identifying ethnic Tigrayans from all government agencies and NGOs”.

The United Nations told the police they do not identify staff by ethnicity, according to the report. There was no immediate comment from the Amhara regional police.

Ethiopia launched a military offensive in Tigray last week and hundreds of people have been killed in the ensuing fighting.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accuses the leaders of the northern region - the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) - of treason. Concerns are growing that the campaign against them could led to ethnic profiling of Tigrayans throughout the country.

The reports of the visit to the WFP office in Amhara were a “complete misrepresentation of the event”, the government’s emergency taskforce said in a statement, adding that it was pursuing suspects linked to Tigray’s leaders, not Tigrayans.

The suspects were “embedded” and “active” within various local and international organisations, the taskforce said.

News also came on Friday that the African Union had dismissed its security head, an Ethiopian national, after Abiy’s government accused him of disloyalty. An analyst said the dismissal was part of the Abiy government’s efforts to sideline prominent Tigrayans.

Local forces and militias from Amhara, which has boundary disputes with Tigray, are backing the federal troops’ campaign, further increasing ethnic friction.

Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne and Maggie Fick, Editing by William Maclean