Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) personnel working in Ethiopia’s Tigray region say they witnessed the extrajudicial killing of four civilians by Ethiopian soldiers earlier this week.
The killings took place on the road between the regional capital, Mekelle, and the city of Adigrat, in an apparent retaliation for an ambush of a military convoy, MSF says.
Three MSF staff members were travelling in a clearly marked MSF vehicle when they encountered military vehicles that were on fire.
The MSF vehicle was stopped, along with the two buses whose passengers were ordered to disembark and the men and women were separated.
The women were allowed to walk away and shortly after at least four men were shot. Their bodies could be seen on the side of the road, the charity says.
Officials say the medical aid charity’s allegations will be investigated. “No person, including serving soldiers, is above the law,” Ethiopia’s embassy in London told the BBC.
The conflict in northern Ethiopia erupted in November when the government launched an offensive to oust the region’s ruling party from power after its fighters captured federal military bases in Tigray.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) had a massive fall-out with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed over the future of Ethiopia’s ethnically based federal system and its role in government.
Mr. Abiy declared that the conflict was over at the end of November, but fighting is continuing in parts of the region, with reports that thousands of people have been killed and hundreds of thousands forced from their homes.
“We are horrified by the continued violence in Tigray,” MSF said in a statement about the killings its team had witnessed.
“This horrific event further underscores the need for the protection of civilians during this on-going conflict, and for armed groups to respect the delivery of humanitarian assistance, including medical aid.”
“Our teams are still reeling from witnessing the senseless loss of lives from this latest attack,” MSF said, saying their staffs were eventually able to return to Mekelle.
Mr. Abiy has promised to bring to account soldiers found to have committed crimes.
The conflict not only involves the military and regional fighters, but has also drawn in troops from neighbouring Eritrea as well as other militias.
All have been accused of human rights abuses.
Last week, the UN said it would work with the state-linked Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to investigate reports of the indiscriminate killing of civilians and widespread sexual abuse.
The US has described the violence in Tigray as ethnic cleansing. (Source: BBC)