The Ethiopian government has criticized an Amnesty International report alleging war crimes were committed in the northern town of Axum last year, according to Bloomberg News Agency, Saturday.
On Friday, Amnesty International stated that Eritrean forces killed hundreds of unarmed civilians last November, and the organization relied in its conclusions on interviews with 41 survivors and eyewitnesses.The organization stated in a new report that the worst fighting broke out in the northern city of Axum on November 28-29, as soldiers opened fire in the streets and raided homes in a “massacre that may reach the level of a crime against humanity.”
41 survivors, eyewitnesses and 20 people with knowledge of the events told researchers of extrajudicial executions, indiscriminate bombing and widespread looting after Ethiopian and Eritrean forces launched an offensive and took control of the city on 19 November.
An analysis of satellite images confirmed the authenticity of the reports and showed the existence of mass burial sites, according to Amnesty International. “The Ethiopian and Eritrean forces committed multiple war crimes, and the Eritrean forces have systematically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood,” said Amnesty International’s Director for Eastern and Southern Africa, Deprose Mocina.
The head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, Daniel Bekele, said in response to the report that “Amnesty International’s findings should be taken very seriously”.
“While the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has not yet completed its investigation, its preliminary results indicate that an unknown number of civilians have been killed by Eritrean soldiers in the city of Axum (northern Ethiopia),” Bekele added in a statement.
Ethiopia launched a military offensive on Tigray last November to reduce the power of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which rules the region and criticizes the government.
It remains unclear why the Eritrean forces intervened with the Ethiopian army in the Tigrayan conflict, but there has been a long-running hostility between the TPLF and Eritrea since the 1998-2000 border war, and Eritrea denies its involvement in the Tigrayan conflict.