As the conflict continues to grow in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, “scores and probably hundreds” of civilians have been massacred.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is being blamed by witnesses for Monday’s killings, but Tigrayan officials have denied that pro-TPLF troops were involved, Amnesty International said.
There has been long-standing tension between Ethiopia’s government and the TPLF, which controls Tigray, the country’s northernmost state, and it has boiled over into military clashes, including air strikes by federal forces.
Fighting between government forces and the TPLF broke out last week but getting accurate information is getting hard after the government has shutdown phone lines and internet access.
This would be the first large-scale killing of civilians in the conflict and has already resulted in thousands of civilians crossing the border into Sudan, which says it will shelter them in a refugee camp.
Amnesty International said in a statement it said it could confirm that “scores, and likely hundreds, of people were stabbed or hacked to death in Mai-Kadra (May Cadera) town in the South West Zone of Ethiopia’s Tigray region on the night of November 09”.
It had seen and “digitally verified gruesome photographs and videos of bodies strewn across the town or being carried away on stretchers”.
Amnesty said the victims appeared to be labourers not involved in the conflict.
Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for East and Southern Africa, called it a “horrific tragedy” and urged the government to restore communications and allow monitors access.
Amnesty said witnesses had spoken of wounds “inflicted by sharp weapons such as knives and machetes”. Some witnesses said the attacks were carried out by forces loyal to the TPLF after they had been defeated by federal troops in an area called Lugdi.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered government forces to engage forces loyal to the TPLF on November 04 after he said military camps had been attacked and there have been a number of clashes and air strikes since then.
Mr. Abiy said on Thursday government forces had made major gains.
The TPLF was the most powerful member of Ethiopia’s ruling coalition for many years but Mr. Abiy curbed its influence after coming to power in 2018 and the TPLF refused to join a unified party.
Tigrayan leaders say they have been unfairly targeted by purges and allegations of corruption.
Mr. Abiy accuses some TPLF leaders of being “fugitives from justice” and opposing his moves to reform the way Ethiopia is run. (Source: BBC)