Hundreds of Ethiopian civilians were killed by forces from Eritrea in a brutal East African massacre that was only uncovered last week, the Associated Press reported.
The mass slaughter occurred in November last year in the city of Axum, located in a region called Tigray, home to the country’s most sacred Ethiopian Orthodox Church.
On Friday, the human rights organization Amnesty International said that although hundreds of lives were lost in the massacre, Tigray’s inaccessibility kept the atrocity from being discovered sooner.
According to Amnesty International spokesman Conor Fortune, “no independent human rights monitors have been allowed in the region since the conflict began.”
Human rights monitors kept out of region
A report from the organization stated that “Eritrean soldiers deliberately shot civilians on the street and carried out systematic house-to-house searches, extrajudicially executing men and boys.”
“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 report added.
A church deacon who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity said he helped collect bodies and estimated that some 800 residents were killed at the Church of St. Mary of Zion or around the city, with thousands more being killed in the area.
“I escaped by chance with a priest,” the deacon said, adding that as they both “entered the street, we could hear gunfire all over.”
“When they fight and lose, they take revenge on the farmers and kill everyone they can find,” the deacon said of the killers. “This is what we’ve seen in the past three months.”
America “gravely concerned”
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has downplayed reports of continuing violence after having declared victory in the conflict late last year, the AP reported.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States is “gravely concerned” over the violence in Ethiopia, however.
“The United States has repeatedly engaged the Ethiopian government on the importance of ending the violence, ensuring unhindered humanitarian access to Tigray, and allowing a full, independent, international investigation into all reports of human rights violations, abuses, and atrocities,” Blinken said. “Those responsible for them must be held accountable.”