UN works to free 16 humanitarian staff members in Ethiopia

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UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 9 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations is working with the government of Ethiopia to get 16 members of its national humanitarian staff freed from detention, a UN spokesman said on Tuesday.

Stephane Dujarric, the chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said six of the original 22 national staff members detained were released. There was some contact with the people still held, but Dujarric did not elaborate.

Asked if the United Nations is considering moving staff out of Ethiopia, the spokesman said, "We monitor the situation on more than a daily basis and will take whatever action we need to keep staff -- national and international -- safe."

There were 2,398 national staff and 1,077 international UN staff in Ethiopia as of Monday with about 4,957 dependents, Dujarric said. There also were no reports of staff having difficulty leaving Ethiopia.

The reason for the detentions was unknown. There were reports that the staffers might be ethnic Tigrayans.

A year-long fight by rebels in the northernmost region of Tigray recently spilled into neighboring Afar and Amhara, and the government reportedly detained Tigrayans outside the embattled area.

Only Monday, UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths concluded a four-day visit to Ethiopia, asking for more humanitarian access to the region in need. Enditem

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