Ethiopian police have arrested a dozen officials who worked in the former interim government of the country's war-torn Tigray region, an ex-member of the administration told AFP, but the government denied the claims Tuesday.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed set up the administration in Tigray after sending troops into the region in November 2020 to topple the regional ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).
But the TPLF has since regained control of Tigray while the war has ground to a stalemate.
"Around 12 people have been arrested, all of them members of the previous Tigray interim administration," the former official told AFP on condition of anonymity, citing security fears.
The government communication service said Tuesday that police had "following due process, detained individuals who are believed to be part of an illegal scheme".
"As far as my information suggests, they are not part of the interim administration."
A member of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) told AFP it had "learnt that a number of people have been detained, including some former members of the interim administration."
"We're looking into it," the official from the state-backed independent human rights body said, without offering details.
According to the former member of the interim administration, the detainees "are apparently accused of terrorism and having links with the TPLF".
"These people don't have any link with the TPLF," he insisted, saying that Tigrayan rebels killed at least 38 members of the administration.
He accused the Abiy government of looking for a scapegoat as the conflict has dragged on, adding the authorities "have to find somebody to be accountable for the failure in Tigray".
In October, the chief of staff of the former interim Tigray administration, Gebremeskel Kassa, told AFP he had fled Ethiopia, saying he feared for his safety.
In his asylum request, he said he was summoned to meetings with top federal officials who blamed the interim administration, which ran civilian operations, for the military setback.
According to the UN, the war has displaced more than two million people, driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation and left more than nine million in need of assistance.