Eritrean soldiers killed “hundreds of civilians” in November 2020 in Tigray, a region of northern Ethiopia in the grip of fighting, accuses Friday in an Amnesty International report which bases its assertions on testimonies of survivors and on images of satellite of the city of Aksum, an ancient and holy city in northern Tigray.
“The evidence is overwhelming and leads to a frightening conclusion. Ethiopian and Eritrean troops have committed multiple war crimes in their offensive to take control of Axum, ”said Deprose Muchena, the NGO’s regional director for east and south Africa.
“Even more, the Eritrean troops went on a rampage and methodically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood, which appears to constitute crimes against humanity. This atrocity is among the worst documented to date in this conflict, ”he said.
The worst abuses committed on November 28
According to 41 survivors and witnesses interviewed by Amnesty, Ethiopian and Eritrean troops took control of Axum on November 19, “in a massive offensive, killing and displacing civilians with indiscriminate shelling and gunfire.” “Over the next nine days, the Eritrean army engaged in widespread looting and extrajudicial killings,” Amnesty said.
The worst violence was committed on November 28 and 29, in retaliation for an attack by a group of pro-TPLF militiamen against Eritrean soldiers. At around 4 p.m. on November 28, “the Eritrean soldiers entered the city and started killing people at random,” said a 22-year-old man. At nightfall, “in the street, there were only corpses and people crying,” said another survivor.
Troops from Eritrea to support Ethiopian forces
Tigray has been in the throes of fighting since the Ethiopian government launched on November 4 a military operation against the forces of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that governed the region and which Addis Ababa led. accused of attacking federal army bases.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed declared victory on November 28 after the recapture of the regional capital Mekele, although the TPLF vowed to continue fighting. Fighting persists.
The presence of troops from Eritrea, a country bordering Tigray, to support Ethiopian forces has been reported by residents, aid workers and local officials, but has always been denied by Asmara and Addis Ababa.
The two countries clashed in a bloody conflict between 1998 and 2000, when the TPLF was in power in Ethiopia, before coming closer at the initiative of Abiy Ahmed, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019. Hate remains tenacious between the Eritrean authorities and the TPLF.