Amnesty report describes Axum massacre in Ethiopia’s Tigray

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NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Soldiers from Eritrea systematically killed “many hundreds” of people, the large majority men, in a massacre late November in the Ethiopian city of Axum in the Tigray region, Amnesty International said Friday. The new report echoed the findings of an Associated Press story last week and cited more than 40 witnesses.

As pressure on Ethiopia increased over what might be the deadliest massacre of the Tigray conflict, the prime minister’s office announced that “humanitarian agencies have now been provided unfettered access to aid in the region.” It added that the government “welcomes international technical assistance to undertake the investigations (into alleged abuses) as well as invites the potential to collaborate on joint investigations.”

And yet the government alleged the Amnesty report relied on “scanty information,” and said the human rights group should have visited the Tigray region. Amnesty said it requested permission from the government in December and never received a response.

“As you know, no independent human rights monitors have been allowed in the region since the conflict began,” spokesman Conor Fortune said in an email to the AP.

Crucially, the head of the government-established Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Daniel Bekele, says the Amnesty findings “should be taken very seriously.” The commission’s own preliminary findings “indicate the killing of an as yet unknown number of civilians by Eritrean soldiers” in Axum, its statement said.

The Amnesty report describes the soldiers gunning down civilians as they fled, lining up men and shooting them in the back, rounding up “hundreds, if not thousands” of men for beatings and refusing to allow those grieving to bury the dead.

Over a period of about 24 hours, “Eritrean soldiers deliberately shot civilians on the street and carried out systematic house-to-house searches, extrajudicially executing men and boys,” the report released early Friday says. “The massacre was carried out in retaliation for an earlier attack by a small number of local militiamen, joined by local residents armed with sticks and stones.”

The “mass execution” of Axum civilians by Eritrean troops may amount to crimes against humanity, the report says, and it calls for a United Nations-led international investigation and full access to Tigray for human rights groups, journalists and humanitarian workers. The region has been largely cut off since fighting began in early November.

Ethiopia’s federal government has denied the presence of soldiers from neighboring Eritrea, long an enemy of the Tigray region’s now-fugitive leaders, and Eritrea’s government dismissed the AP story on the Axum massacre as “outrageous lies.” Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Gebremeskel, on Friday said his country “is outraged and categorically rejects the preposterous accusations” in the Amnesty report.

But even senior members of the Ethiopia-appointed interim government in Tigray have acknowledged the Eritrean soldiers’ presence and allegations of widespread looting and killing.

Ethiopia said the “alleged incident” in Axum “will have to be thoroughly investigated.”

And Ethiopia’s ambassador to Belgium, Hirut Zemene, told a webinar on Thursday that the alleged massacre in November was a “very highly unlikely scenario” and “we suspect it’s a very, very crazy idea.”

No one knows how many thousands of civilians have been killed in the conflict between Ethiopian and allied forces and those of the Tigray regional government, which had long dominated Ethiopia’s government before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018. Humanitarian officials have warned that a growing number of people might be starving to death as access, while improving, remains restricted.

“Hostilities must cease immediately,” the European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in a statement in response to the Amnesty International report, adding that “the level of suffering endured by civilians, including children, is appalling.”

The presence of Eritrean soldiers in Tigray has brought some alarm. The United States has repeatedly urged Eritrea to withdraw its soldiers and cited credible reports of “grave” human rights abuses. On Wednesday it asked, “Does the Eritrean military have sufficient control over its troops to prevent them from committing human rights abuses?”

Witnesses of the massacre in Axum told Amnesty International that Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers jointly took control of the city but the Eritreans carried out the killings and then conducted house-to-house raids for men and teenage boys.

Bodies were left strewn in the streets after the events of Nov. 28 and 29, witnesses said.

“The next day, they did not allow us to pick the dead. The Eritrean soldiers said you cannot bury the dead before our dead soldiers are buried,” one woman told Amnesty International. With hospitals looted or health workers having fled, some witnesses said a number of people died from their wounds because of lack of care.

“Gathering the bodies and carrying out the funerals took days. Most of the dead appear to have been buried on 30 November, but witnesses said that people found many additional bodies in the days that followed,” the new report says.

After obtaining permission from Ethiopian soldiers to bury the dead, witnesses said they feared the killings would resume any moment, even as they piled bodies onto horse-drawn carts and took them to churches for burial, at times in mass graves.

The AP spoke with a deacon at one church, the Church of St. Mary of Zion, who said he helped count the bodies, gathered victims’ identity cards and assisted with burials. He believes some 800 people were killed that weekend around the city.

After being left exposed for a day or more, the bodies had begun to rot, further traumatizing families and those who gathered to help.

The new report says satellite imagery shows newly “disturbed soil” beside churches.

27 COMMENTS

  1. When is the last time interest group Amnesty International came out with a report condemning the gross human rights abuses of the Uyghur people by the Beijing commies in Xinjiang concentration camps? When was that?

  2. Ok everyone! Listen to me now! This is my personal agonizing story. My family and I decided to go to New York on a sightseeing trip. I took us ten hours of non-stop driving to get there. The next day we were strolling on 5th Avenue and marveling at everything we were seeing. Nobody was there except us. Then suddenly this person in a military uniform showed up from nowhere and began ophthalmologically assaulting me. He assaulted me by giving me a murderous stare down until I was disoriented. I noticed that the person was an Eritrean soldier from his military uniform. Right there on 5th Avenue New York. I have called Amnesty International and reported the painful staring assault. They told me it will be in there next press release. Since then I discovered that soldiers from the Eritrean army are also in Canada. They are everywhere, man!!! I’m now afraid even to walk my dogs!!!! They talk about how the rover Perseverance had landed on Mars. Forget about it!!!! Eritrean soldiers were already there last November when the law enforcing campaign began in Tigray. They are everywhere, dude!!! I am afraid even to have a cup of coffee cuz an Eritrean soldier may pop up out of it. I heard they have this teleporting technology to be everywhere in an instant through quantum physics using Max Planck’s hypothesis they only know.
    Eritrean soldiers are coming! Eritrean soldiers are coming! Fire in the hole! Eritrean soldiers are coming!

  3. .
    TPLFites were boasting that no earthly force will defeat their forces. But with a short law enforcement operation, we have watched the leaders of Tplf being dragged from the abyss by ropes or beams and chained in handcuff.
    This has created a tremendous shock to the remnants of Tplfites elsewhere. These remnants are now tasked with seeing Ethiopia fall apart by supporting anyone including Egypt or Sudanese invading forces as an option for their defeat. Like they did in the past, under the guise of the people of Tigray, they are echoing falsity while mourning the death of their TPLF party.
    Last time, those remnants in the diaspora surprised us and other spectators by wrapping themselves in plastic bags and rolling themselves in highways and streets. This was a pretension to hide the guilt and look as if they were wronged. Rather than remorse for the crimes their organization committed they felt ‘defeat’. Now they are in a path of despair by exaggerating incidents and continue echoing the tribal politics of the fascists under the guise of the people of Tigray.

    As per the humanitarian crisis and famine unfolding in Tigray, we all should stand with the people living in Tigray and denounce illegal actions intended to harm innocent civilians.

  4. It is now clear that REAL character of Amhara militias and elites supporters, including despicable wanna be ITTU is exposed.

    … which is inhumane, triabalistic, revengeful, and genocidal.

    The whole world knows about it… it’s written, published and documented.

    You will not escape the judgement of history for covering up crimes against humanity being committed in Tigray against civilians… No one cares about TPLF…, this is about ethnic cleansing by Amahara militias and killings by foreign forces invited by Abiy.

    All of you lost morality and respect as people infront of the world, you are no different from Rowanda’s Hutus… and worse.

    The difference between TPLF war on Oromos and Amahara war on Tigray is the ATTITUDE towards humanity. TPLF fought Oromos for power, not to for ethnic cleansing and revenge…

    Shame on you!

    https://www.voanews.com/ethiopia-tigray/us-report-documents-atrocities-ethnic-cleansing-tigray-ny-times-says

  5. An official of WFP(World Food Program) was in Tigray in person recently and had expressed his satisfaction with what he saw in terms of humanitarian aid being provided to the civilians there. He urged the world to open up its wallet and send more aid since people will continue to need assistance for quite some time to come. As I have said before we should also be part of the blessed effort in helping those upright people of that region who are in dire situation for no fault of their own. Let’s not associate that common man or woman with the goons of the TPLF. We should put ourselves in their shoes and feel their hurt and agony. We should not let a single citizen in that region go hungry as the consequences of the war to maintain law and order while we eat more than 3 times a day. Let’s not let rhetorics stand in our way from helping those innocent people. Those people do not want crocodile tears from pretenders but they are in desperate need of the basic essentials to be back on their feet. Let’s do this!!!!!

  6. የተወካዮች ምክር በትላንትናው ቀን ባካሄደው አስቸኳይ ጉባዔ ‘እመበር ተጋዳላይ’ የሚለዉ ወደ ‘እንበር ተንከባላይ/ተንደባላይ/አዉደልዳይ’፣ እዲሁም ደግሞ ‘ተጋሩ ወደ ‘ችጋሩ’ የሚያስከፋ ከሆነ ደግሞ ወደ ‘ተዳሩ’ እንዲቀየር በሙሉ ድምፅ ወስኗል። የምክር ቤቱን ዉሳኔ በመደገፍ በየአገሩ ተበትነው ዉሸት የሚረጬና ሜዳ ላይ የሚንከባሉ የወያኔ ርዝራዦች ሰልፍ እንደሚያረጉ ይጠበቃል። አሁን ዘግይቶ በደረሰን መረጃ መሰረት ሰልፎቹ ላይ ለመገኘት ስዩም መስፍን እና ስብሀት ነጋ መንግስትን መጠየቃቸዉ ታዉቋል።

  7. የተወካዮች ምክር በትላንትናው ቀን ባካሄደው አስቸኳይ ጉባዔ ‘እመበር ተጋዳላይ’ የሚለዉ ወደ ‘እንበር ተንከባላይ/ተንደባላይ/አዉደልዳይ’፣ እዲሁም ደግሞ ‘ተጋሩ ወደ ‘ችጋሩ’ የሚያስከፋ ከሆነ ደግሞ ወደ ‘ተዳሩ’ እንዲቀየር በሙሉ ድምፅ ወስኗል። የምክር ቤቱን ዉሳኔ በመደገፍ በየአገሩ ተበትነው ዉሸት የሚረጬና ሜዳ ላይ የሚንከባሉ የወያኔ ርዝራዦች ሰልፍ እንደሚያረጉ ይጠበቃል። አሁን ዘግይቶ በደረሰን መረጃ መሰረት ሰልፎቹ ላይ ለመገኘት ስዩም መስፍን እና ስብሀት ነጋ መንግስትን መጠየቃቸዉ ታዉቋል።

  8. On the eve of the historic that has been and Shall remain to be the inspiration for freedom mongering people worldwide, I want to give a roaring shout out to my countrymen/women to remind them in unity our forefathers had accomplished what seemed to be impossible. That pride of the colored and also humanity, the Battle and Victory at Adwa was a result of ironclad unity among numerous groups of people who shed their differences and stood up to a bully as one. The blood that flowed on that battlefield was the blood of almost every ethnic group that heeded the call to arms. We should show the world we are still as united. Let’s put all our resources to help those in dire need throughout the old country including those brothers and sisters in Tigray.

      • Illu,

        “…brothers and sisters in Tigray” You are an absolute IDIOT.
        You have no sisters & brothers in Tigray! You are #1 supporter of genocide in Tigray.

        You better change you name, as it shames Oromos…you are a NAFTEGNA dog, a #1 enemy of Oromo and other Ethiopian people.

        • Aha!!! Now I know! Hello Mr. Hordofaa!!! What happened to your ‘My Oromia is coming! My new Republic of Oromia is coming!’? What happened? That was in 2014. I have been waiting for that since then. What happened to that promise!!! As far I am concerned, I had told you I’m not even from the Horn of Africa. I’m 10% German(your race), 10% Filipino, 20% Irish, 15% Malay, 20% Navaho from Minnesota(your hood) 15% Sami(in Norway where your largest missionary canteen is located) and 15% Egyptian(your benefactor’s joint). Wait a minute that totals more than 100%. Ok, take 5% from Irish and call it even. And don’t forget to get lost!!!!

  9. What happened to my previous comments? Am I suddenly in the dog house with the dear editors of this esteemed website?

    • It would have been nice if you posted the videos showing the killings of Ethiopian Defens Forces and innocent people in Mai Cadra by the TPLF bandits. I don’t cheer vigilante justice, but compared with what the TPLF thugs did, what the Amhara militia did was little.

      Do you think we have forgotten the genocides committed against the Somalis, Agukas, Addis residents, and others during the TPLF’s 27 years reign of terror? Did you say anything against the crimes? What goes around, comes around. It was a war, emotions were high, and things could happen. Don’t expect us to feel sorry after your thugs summarily excused ENDF who were defending Tigray. Blame your TPLF thugs.

      • Damo,

        As an Eritrean you should have been ashamed of what your people are doing on innocent Tigreans. How much Issayas could be paying you to have to completely lose your soul and sense of humanity? The young girl said in Tigregna “ ስረይ ክፈትሕ ምስበለ ብኢደይ ወቒዓዬ” A typical Tigrean

        Those crying mothers and girls could be any once family. This will only make the Tigrean young to fight even harder. Watch below

        https://youtu.be/RNEflsY3U3w

        • Please, stop whining. You are making a mountain out of a molehill. I am not condoning any wrong action, but I don’t blame Eritreans if they whipped the TPLF thugs. The TPLF fired rockets into Eritrea.

          What I still don’t understand is how on earth the TPLF bandits thought to survive by antagoniszing the Azemaris in the south, and Eritreans in the north? Their stupidity lead them to their downfall.

          I have no doubt the people of Tigray will make out of their current ordeal.

          እምበር ተንከባላይ,

          መጀመሪያ ነበር መጥኖ መደቆስ፣
          አሁን ምን የደርጋል ተንከባሎ ማልቀስ /አፈንድዶ ማልቀስ።

          • I can only tell you this in a language you understand well that you are ወድ ሸርሙጣ: ስዲ ወድ ሰበይቲ

    • Shut up! You want us to cry with you? No. You are a disgusting TPLF leftover.

      You are blaming Eritreans who brought you all the way to Addis. For the first few years, you allowed them to do anything they wanted, including exporting coffee. Then, you wanted to loot Ethiopia unchallenged. You disavowed Shabia, and deported Eritreans in groves, looting everything they owned. You left Ethiopia landlocked and told the world that you played a big role for the independence of Eritrea. Now, when you are getting whipped, you want Ethiopians to rescue you. You are accusing Eritreans looting your property. Disgusting!!!

      • Are you trying to justify genocide and ethnic cleansing? raping girls, killing men, women and children indiscriminately by Eritrean army sent by your boss Issayas Afewerki? You despicable you, what is atrocities on civilians has to do with TPLF? We know, Eritrean Issayas has mobilized online several Eritreans specially those who can speak Amharic to disguise them self as Ethiopian and create mayhem in the country, but we can spot you from far. Recently an Eritrean general said they are only killing Tigreans not Ethiopians, what a fool! Tigray is part of Ethiopia. An attack on Tigray is an attack on Ethiopia. But most of all, no civilians deserve to die, this crime against humanity

        • Listen, I don’t need a lecture from a TPLF leftover how to feel about anything. There is NO genocide. Period!

          You thugs started a war they couldn’t win. They killed soldiers who were protecting the people of Tigray Your bandits murdered people in Mai Cadra. Forget about the 27 years of crime sprees. Did you say anything about the TPLF criminals? No. All you used to do was defend the TPLF and make fun of the people who objected the crimes. When things go your way, you brag all daylong, when they don’t, you want us to cry with you.

          You deported Eritreans and confiscated their properties. When you face the music, you want Ethiioiand to help you?

          Do you know how many people had died to keep your thugs in power? Millions.

          No one except the defunct TPLF thugs want innocent people to die. You should have thought twice before you started the war. You brought ethnic politics, and it ended up destroying you. You are repugnant TPLF leftover!

  10. I had proposed the best solution for all the problems facing the Horn of Africa. I told you to deport all Amharas to Hadramaut, their place of origin and my Oromos to Madagascar where we came from in 1875. Then and only then there will be peace. The original people(aborigines) of the region are Tigres. The rest migrated there at later dates. Afars came in 900 AD, Somalis in 1450 and others in 1650. These should be allowed to stay. But Amharas and Oromos must be expurgated from the region and sent back to their homelands. See how easy it is. I had all figured it for you. Just do it!!!

  11. On a positive note, I am very pleased to hear that BBC reporter Obbo Girmay Gebru has been released from detention without charges. I hope and pray that fair and accurate reporting of news by reporters and justifiable tolerance by authorities will compensate each other so all of us will be well informed. There is always one very sad and unavoidable consequence of war: destruction. No matter where it happens there will be homes, places of work, infrastructures and in worst scenarios whole towns destroyed. More valuable than anything else human lives will be lost. Innocent civilians are the ones that will carry the brunt of such destruction. It will be incumbent upon those who are fortunate enough not to be affected by such mayhem to step in and lend helping hands to the unfortunates. Aid should flow in unabated in an organized matter. That is what our brothers and sisters in Tigray need and need pronto. Those goons of the TPLF who have been riding on their backs and blowing their dragon breaths over their shoulders for more than 45 years are on the run now. Those upright and extremely resourceful people should be given the chance they deserve to rebuild their lives. And I don’t doubt their enormous capabilities to achieve that. I am very pleased and excited to hear that Good Ole USA has already moved in to provide critical assistance in the rehabilitating effort thru its USAID program. We should all join hands and share the last penny in our pocket to help those blessed people. With our concerted effort all this Shall pass!!! Insha’Allah!!!!

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