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Tigray conflict risks spiralling out of control: U.N.'s Bachelet

FILE PHOTO: United Nations' High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet adjusts her mask during the opening of 45th session of the Human Rights Council, at the European U.N. headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland September 14, 2020. Martial Trezzini/Pool via REUTERS

GENEVA (Reuters) - The United Nations human rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Friday expressed “increasing alarm” at violence in Ethiopia’s Tigray region and said an alleged massacre there might amount to war crimes.

“There is a risk this situation will spiral totally out of control, leading to heavy casualties and destruction, as well as mass displacement within Ethiopia itself and across borders,” she said in a statement delivered by a Geneva-based spokesman, Rupert Colville.

Amnesty International said scores and possibly hundreds of civilians were stabbed and hacked to death in the region on Nov. 9, citing witnesses.

“If confirmed as having been deliberately carried out by a party to the current fighting, these killings of civilians would amount to war crimes and there must be an independent investigation and full accountability for what has happened,” she said.

Colville added that there were concerns that the killings which he described as “really, really horrific” were done along ethnic lines, although said it was too early to say this was the case.

A spokesman for the U.N. refugee agency Babar Baloch said that the number of refugees seeking safety in neighbouring Sudan are increasing rapidly, with over 4,000 crossing the border in one day.

There are also concerns that the violence will cause the mass displacement of thousands of Eritrean refugees in a camp in Ethiopia, he added, saying that aid agencies were overwhelmed.

Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Alison Williams, William Maclean