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Amnesty: Eritrean troops 'massacred hundreds' in Tigray

February 26, 2021

After conducting research with residents and witnesses from the town of Axum, which lies in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray, Amnesty is in little doubt that mass killings were carried out by Eritrean forces.

White cross on hill in top of May Shum, Queen Of Sheba Swimming Pool, Aksum Ethiopia
Thousands of people have been killed since Ethiopia launched a military offensive in NovemberImage: ARTUSH/Zoonar/picture alliance

Human rights organization Amnesty International said on Friday that "hundreds" of people were massacred by Eritrean troops in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region last November.

Amnesty's Jean-Baptiste Gallopin, who conducted numerous interviews with residents and witness from the historical town of Axum, where the alleged massacre took place, told DW: "The perpetrators were Eritreans."

"We interviewed 41 residents and witnesses from Axum over two research missions," he continued. "So we're pretty confident in our findings. We also used satellite imagery that allowed us to corroborate the burial sites."

In addition, Gallopin said there had been "indiscriminate shelling on the city and looting by Eritrean forces."

US, Kenya discuss 'human rights crises'

On Thursday, US President Joe Biden called Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to talk over the crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray region.

Biden and Kenyatta "discussed the deteriorating humanitarian and human rights crises in Ethiopia's Tigray region and the need to prevent further loss of life and ensure humanitarian access," the White House said in a statement.

Last month, the US called on Eritrean troops to withdraw from Tigray. However, both the Eritrean and Ethiopian governments have denied that Eritrean forces are in the region, which lies along Ethiopia's border with Eritrea.

Thousands of people have been killed since Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched military operations against the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in early November.

Abiy ordered the offensive move after an alleged attack on a federal army camp by TPLF fighters. In late November, Abiy declared victory after government forces captured the regional capital of Mekele. But clashes continue in the region. 

Amnesty seeks UN investigation

Amnesty researcher Gallopin is urging the international community to act, particularly as the Ethiopian government continues to block the path of those trying to investigate.

"Amnesty International is calling for a UN-led investigation into the massacre, but also into other grave violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law in Axum," he told DW.

The UN has said around 2 million people need assistance in and around Tigray and 1 million have been displaced by the fighting. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has called for "guaranteed unfettered humanitarian access," but entry to the region has been strictly controlled.

Ethiopia: Violence displaces hundreds of thousands

John Silk Editor and writer for English news, as well as the Culture and Asia Desks.@JSilk