Representative image Photograph:( AFP )
Since November 2020, Ethiopia's Tigray region had been a theatre of fighting between the regions soldiers and Ethiopian forces
Amnesty International said on Friday that that Eritrean soldiers fighting across border in Ethiopia's Tigray region killed hundreds of people in a massacre last year. For its new report, the human rights watchdog spoke to survivors of the atrocities and used satellite images to piece together the bloody events of last November in the ancient town of Axum.
"The evidence is compelling and points to a chilling conclusion. Ethiopian and Eritrean troops carried out multiple war crimes in their offensive to take control of Axum," said Deprose Muchena of Amnesty International.
"Above and beyond that, Eritrean troops went on a rampage and systematically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood, which appears to constitute crimes against humanity.
"This atrocity ranks among the worst documented so far in this conflict."
Since November 2020, Ethiopia's Tigray region had been a theatre of fighting between the regions soldiers and Ethiopian forces.
Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed declared victory after pro-government forces captured region's capital Mekele.
Tigray has been without internet and difficult to access since the start of the conflict, making claims and counter-claims of violence hard to confirm.
The presence of Eritrean troops in Ethiopia is widely documented but has been denied by Addis Ababa and Asmara.
Eritrea fought a brutal border war with Ethiopia in 1998-2000, back when the TPLF dominated Ethiopia's governing coalition.
Abiy won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019 in large part for initiating a rapprochement with Eritrea, whose President Isaias Afwerki and the TPLF remain bitter enemies.
Amnesty said it had spoken to 41 survivors and witnesses of the violence who said that on November 19, 2020, Ethiopian and Eritrean military forces took control of Axum "in a large-scale offensive, killing and displacing civilians with indiscriminate shelling and shooting."
"In the nine days that followed, the Eritrean military engaged in widespread looting of civilian property and extrajudicial executions."
Witnesses said the Eritrean forces were easily identifiable, via their vehicles, language and unique ritual facial scars, while they also openly declared themselves as such.
The worst violence unfolded after a small group of pro-TPLF militiamen attacked the soldiers' base on 28 November and they retaliated, leaving the town strewn with bodies.
"The Eritrean soldiers came into the city and started killing randomly," said a 22-year-old man who had wanted to bring food to the militia, who he described as young and barely knowing how to fight.
Residents told Amnesty that many victims in Axum carried no weapons and were running away from the soldiers when they were shot.
(With AFP inputs)