An increasing number of media reports document massacres in other Tigray communities, citing witness accounts, as concern grows about the fate of the region’s 6 million people.
International pressure is mounting on Africa’s second most populous country to allow independent investigations into the atrocities committed during the conflict that began in November between Ethiopian and allied forces and those of the now fleeing Tigrayan leaders who controlled the government of Ethiopia before Abiy took power in 2018. .
Some of these allied forces are from neighboring Eritrea, one of the world’s most secretive countries and an enemy of former Tigrayan leaders. The Ethiopian government denies their existence, even as some government-appointed interim Tigray leaders admit, and many witnesses describe the killing and looting of soldiers.
The United States has repeatedly called on the Eritrean forces to leave Tigray immediately. In Washington’s strongest statement yet on Tigray, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken said over the weekend that the United States was “deeply concerned about the atrocities reported and the overall deteriorating situation”.
Ethiopia responded that no foreign country should try to “dictate the internal affairs of a sovereign state.”
The Axum massacre in late November may be the bloodiest in the Tigray conflict, with eyewitnesses saying that Eritrean forces killed several hundred people. The AP spoke to a church deacon who said he helped count the bodies, collected identity cards for victims, and assisted with the burial. Around 800 people are believed to have been killed this weekend across the city.
Ethiopia’s new statement said that the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, set up by the government, is investigating allegations from Axum and elsewhere, and has “demonstrated its willingness to cooperate with the relevant UN agencies.”
UN Human Rights Coordinator Michelle Bachelet said last week that the office was ready to support the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission if its monitors were granted access to the Tigray region.
Journalists also pressed for access to Tigray, but in recent days, several Ethiopians working for foreign media were arrested shortly after they were allowed entry. They were later released.
The new Ethiopian statement said that the Ethiopian Defense Forces “will ensure the security” of journalists in the areas in Tigray under the control of the forces, and any journalist leaving those areas “will not be hindered, but he will do so at his own responsibility.”
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