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Africa

Ethiopians mourn victims of "Islamic State" killings

Ethiopia is mourning more than 20 Ethiopian Christians who were killed by suspected "Islamic State" (IS) militants in Libya. An Ethiopian parliamentarian told DW the killers were not Muslims but terrorists.

Ethiopians have reacted with horror at the disclosures that a group of their compatriots has been put to death by IS in Libya.

News of the killings came in a video released on Sunday (19.04.2015) via social media accounts and websites used by Islamic State.

Tesfaye Wolde told AFP news agency he saw his brother Balcha Belete being executed in the recording.

"I saw him kneeling, a masked man pointing a gun to my brother and his friend, with a knife to their throats," he said.

Ethiopian resident Berket Moges told a correspondent for DW's Amharic language service in the southern city of Awassa "It is terrible. We are very sad. The Ethiopian people are weeping inwardly."

Ethiopian parliamentarian Birunesh Abye told DW "they are not Muslims who are killing our daughters and sisters and sons, they are terrorists. They are not our Muslim brothers, our Muslim sisters."

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DW's correspondent in Addis Ababa, Coletta Wanjohi said "the common feeling is that it was wrong for IS, or which ever group it was, to kill Ethiopians like that. However in social media forums there are some who are putting the blame on the government, saying that if government had created jobs people wouldn't have wanted to go away."

Hope of a better life

Three days of national mourning began in Ethiopia on Tuesday with joint Christian and Muslim prayers.

"We have a duty to raise our voice to tell the world that the killing of the innocent like animals is completely unacceptable," said Abune Mathias, patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church.

Sheikh Mohammed Jemal, head of Ethiopia's Islamic Affairs Supreme Council said the killing of people like "chickens" had no place in Islam.

Tesfaye Wolde described how his brother Balcha Belete, an electrician, as well as his friend Eyasu Yekuneamelak, who was also seen killed in the video, left Ethiopia two months ago seeking work and a better life.

He left for Libya, but his destination was Italy. The pair were captured by Islamic State fighters before they could risk the dangerous sea crossing to Europe, in the course of which thousands have drowned in vessels that are barely seaworthy.

Balacha Belete and Eyasu Yekuneamelak left Ethiopia without telling family members.

Addis Ababa (Äthiopien)

The Ethiopian government has announced three days of national mourning

This account by a relative appeared to be backed up by Ethiopian government spokesman, Redwan Hussein who said he believed the victims were Ethiopian migrants trying to reach Europe.

Perilous journeys

Ethiopia is ruled by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) which occupies all but one of parliament's 547 seats and is widely expected to claim a landslide victory in national elections in May.

There was a tragic reminder of the perils of irregular crossings from Africa to Europe when an estimated 800 people drowned in the Mediterraneans's worst migrant disaster on Sunday.

The Islamic State video shows a masked fighter in black brandishing a pistol and making a statement threatening Christians if they do not convert to Islam. The video then switches between footage of one group of about 12 men being beheaded by masked militants on a beach and another group of at least 126 being shot in the head in a desert area.

Official condemnation

The Ethiopian government has condemned the killings and said its embassy in Egypt was trying to confirm the exact toll and the identities of the dead.

African Union chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma condemned the "barbaric and cowardly act".

She said the 54-member bloc, which has its headquarters in the Ethiopian captial Addis Ababa, would boost efforts "towards the restoration of effective state institutions and security in Libya."

The United States has called the killings "brutal mass murder", while the European Union said it was a "criminal" effort to create religious divisions.

The Vatican called on the international community to "stop the advance of cruelty and persecution of Christians" and referred to the men who were killed as "martyrs".

The UN Security Council said Islamic State group "must be defeated and the intolerance, violence and hatred is espouses stamped out."

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