Protesters in Ethiopia's Tigray demand withdrawal of outside forces

FILE PHOTO: African Union envoy holds a news conference on Ethiopia peace talks

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Thousands of people demonstrated on Tuesday in northern Ethiopia's Tigray region to demand the return home of people displaced by a two-year war there and the withdrawal of outside forces that have remained since the conflict ended.

The war between government troops and their allies from neighbouring Eritrea and the Amhara region on one side and Tigrayan forces on the other concluded with a truce last November after claiming tens of thousands of lives.

Millions were forced from their homes, including hundreds of thousands from land disputed by Tigray and Amhara, whose security forces and militiamen continue to occupy the area.

Eritrean troops also remain inside Ethiopian territory in several border towns, according to humanitarian workers. Its government has declined to comment on the matter.

Demonstrators peacefully rallied on Tuesday in several major cities, including the regional capital Mekelle, Adigrat and Shire. They held signs with slogans like "invaders must leave our homeland", according to footage broadcast on Tigrai TV, which is controlled by the party that runs Tigray.

Henok Hiluf, who took part in the protest in Mekelle, told Reuters that about 3,500 to 4,000 were demonstrating there.

The peace deal has held since November, with both sides acknowledging progress in implementing key provisions. Tigray forces have begun disarming, an interim government has been set up and many basic services have been restored.

But Tigrayan authorities have complained about the continuing presence of the outside military forces. Last week, Getachew Reda, who leads the region's interim government, said Eritrean forces had recently prevented a team monitoring implementation of the peace deal from carrying out their work.

Spokespeople for Eritrea and Ethiopia's government and the regional administration of Amhara did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

(Reporting by Dawit Endeshaw; Additional reporting by Giulia Paravicini; Editing by Aaron Ross and Christina Fincher)