Amnesty report describes Axum massacre in Ethiopia’s Tigray

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

Crucially, the Head of the government-established Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Daniel Bekele said 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 on what might be the deadliest massacre of Ethiopia’s Tigray conflict 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, extra-judicially executing men and boys”, the report released yesterday said.

“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 said, and it called for a United Nations (UN)-led international investigation and full access to Tigray for human rights groups, journalists and humanitarian workers.

An elderly woman who fled from the town of Shire to the city of Axum to seek safety, sits with her head bandaged before dying of her injuries days later in Axum, Tigray region of Ethiopia. PHOTO: AP