Ethiopia says Eritrean troops killed 110 civilians in Tigray

AFP , Friday 21 May 2021

The massacre in Axum in late November represents one of the deadliest incidents of the six-month-old war in Ethiopia's Tigray region

Eritrean damaged tank in Tigray, Ethiopia
Eritrean damaged tank in Tigray, Ethiopia

Ethiopia on Friday for the first time accused Eritrean troops of killing 110 civilians in a massacre in the war-hit Tigray region.

The attorney general's office sharply contradicted law enforcement officials who claimed earlier this month that the "great majority" of those killed in the city of Axum were fighters, not civilians.

The killings in Axum in late November represent one of the deadliest incidents of the six-month-old war in Ethiopia's Tigray region.

The Tigray conflict erupted in early November, with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sending in troops to detain and disarm leaders of the regional ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF.)

Abiy said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.

In earlier reports on what happened in Axum, both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty blamed Eritrean troops fighting in Tigray and said the dead were mostly civilians.

Amnesty said the Eritreans "went on a rampage and systematically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood."

In Friday's statement, the attorney general's office said the Eritreans engaged in reprisal killings after pro-TPLF forces attacked them.

"The investigation indicates that 110 civilians have been killed on these dates by Eritrean troops," the statement said, referring to November 27 and November 28.

"The investigation shows that 70 civilians have been killed in the city while they were outdoors. On the other hand, 40 civilians seem to have been taken out of their homes and killed in home-to-home raids conducted by Eritrean troops," it said.

Eritrea's information minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday.

Eritrean troops, who teamed up with the Ethiopian military, have been implicated in multiple massacres and other atrocities during the Tigray conflict, allegations Asmara denies.

The US and EU have repeatedly called for the Eritreans to withdraw.

"The continued presence of Eritrean forces in Tigray further undermines Ethiopia's stability and national unity," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement last week.

"We again call upon the Government of Eritrea to remove its forces from Tigray."

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