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Axum: Amnesty says Eritrea killed hundreds of Ethiopian civilians

Amnesty International has accused Eritrean forces of killing hundreds of civilians in the northern Ethiopian city of Axum last year.

In a statement on Friday, the human rights body condemned Asmara’s action and described the alleged incident as a potential crime against humanity.

Almost immediately, Eritrea issued a statement rejecting the accusations. Its information minister, Yemane Meskel, described them as “false”.

But an Ethiopian state human rights body issued a statement that also described such killings, though with fewer details.

The Ethiopian statement, nevertheless, represents a rare official acknowledgment from Addis that Eritrean troops participated in the conflict during the government’s crackdown in the Tigray region last year.

Amnesty said it had spoken to forty-one witnesses who described the mass killings of “many hundreds of civilians” by Eritrean troops in the ancient Ethiopian city of Axum.

The killings took place during a twenty-four-hour period from November 28 to 29, Amnesty said. It coincides with the date that Ethiopian government forces separately captured Tigray’s regional capital Mekelle from forces loyal to the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front party (TPLF), which the central government had accused of rebelling.

Amnesty said the Axum killings were retaliation for an attack by local militia, and that Eritrean soldiers executed men and boys in the streets and engaged in extensive looting.

Although Eritrea has consistently denied that its forces participated in the recent conflict in Ethiopia, it is also true that Asmara has had a marked aversion to the TPLF, which was in the forefront of the Eritrea-Ethiopia war over the territory of Badmeh in 1998.

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