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MSF: Ethiopian troops stopped buses to execute men

March 25, 2021

The medical charity Doctors Without Borders says it witnessed Ethiopian soldiers executing at least four men in the country's Tigray region. The troops reportedly killed the men after forcing them off civilian buses.

Units of Ethiopian army patrol the streets of Mekelle city of the Tigray region
Units of Ethiopian army patrol the streets of Mekelle city of the Tigray regionImage: Minasse Wondimu Hailu/AA/picture alliance

Doctors Without Borders, usually referred to by its French initials MSF, said in a statement that its staff had seen Ethiopian soldiers kill four men in a summary execution.

The testimony comes as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said atrocities have been reported in Tigray province, his first public acknowledgment of possible war crimes there.

What did MSF staff witness?

Three staff members were traveling ahead of two public mini-buses that were stopped by soldiers on the road from Mekele, the regional capital, to the city of Adigrat.

"The soldiers then forced the passengers to leave the mini-buses," Karline Kleijer, head of emergency programs for the charity, said in the statement. "The men were separated from the women, who were allowed to walk away. Shortly afterward, the men were shot."

Humanitarian crisis in Tigray

Before the MSF team was allowed to leave the scene it saw the shooting victims' bodies on the side of the road, the group said.

The MSF vehicle was again stopped by soldiers not long after and their driver was beaten with a gun and threatened.

"Eventually, the driver was allowed to get back into the vehicle and the team could return to Mekele," Kleijer said.

Ethiopia's army could not be immediately contacted for comment on the statement.

What is happening in the Tigray?

The latest hostilities began after government troops entered the region in November 2020. The offensive came after the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), the ruling party in the semi-autonomous region, attacked the army's Northern Command.

Tigrays rape survivors

Since then, concerns have been growing over the humanitarian situation in the region that is home to 6 million of Ethiopia's more than 110 million people.

The United States has characterized some abuses in Tigray as "ethnic cleansing," charges dismissed by Ethiopian authorities.

Eritrean troops are in the Tigray

Prime Minister Abiy on Tuesday admitted, after repeated denial by authorities, that troops from neighboring Eritrea had gone into Tigray, where their presence has inflicted "damage" on the region's residents.

"Battle is destructive, it hurts many, there is no question about it. There have been damages that happened in Tigray region..." he added.

Ethiopia's rights body on Tuesday supported studies by international rights groups that Eritrean soldiers carried out a bloody massacre in the historic town of Axum in November.

kmm/rc (AP, AFP)