The forces in control of Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region say they will free 4,208 prisoners of war, including 401 women – some of whom have recently given birth.
A statement from Tigray’s External Affairs Office (TEAO) says the decision came after mediation efforts by African Union mediator and ex-Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is trying to negotiate an end to the civil war now in its 19th month.
The vast majority of those to be released were captured during fighting that occurred outside the borders of Tigray and were recently recruited soldiers, the TEAO said.
A Tigray official told Voice of America radio that the prisoners would be driven to the borders of Tigray and handed over to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
The ICRC’s Ethiopia office has not responded to the BBC’s requests for an interview. But Alyona Synenko, the ICRC’s regional spokesperson for Africa, has told the BBC that the organisation is not involved in the process.
The TEAO also urged the Ethiopian government to free thousands of Tigrayans rounded up after the war started and who were “languishing in jails solely on account of their identity”.
Thousands of people – if not tens of thousands – including civilians are believed to have been killed since the war started in November 2020.
There has been a de-escalation in fighting in recent months but there is no official cessation of hostilities.
Tigrayan forces say they have thousands of prisoners of war in their custody.