ASMARA, 19 February 2021 – The Eritrean government has laughed off as “outrageous lies” a story by the Associated Press alleging the massacre of hundreds of people in Tigray by Eritrean forces.
Thursday’s story by the Associated Press said Eritrean soldiers in Tigray attacked and killed civilians in the streets and churches of the Ethiopian holy city of Axum.
Then, according to the report, they blocked some people from burying the bodies.
One church deacon said he believes some 800 people were killed on a single weekend in late November 2020, four weeks into the armed conflict which Addis Ababa declared last November 4.
The deacon said he believes thousands in Axum have died in all.
On Friday, Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Gebremeskel, slammed the story in a series of tweets.
“Relevant Ethiopian institutions had long ascertained the utter fallacy of the story,” Yemane Gebremeskel wrote in one of the tweets.
The Associated Press story relied on several eyewitnesses who accused Eritrean troops of widespread looting, killing and sexual assaults.
Ethiopia has repeatedly denied the presence of Eritrean soldiers in its Tigray region and Eritrea has denied accusations that its forces fought along Ethiopian federal forces as well as abducted and forcefully deported Eritrean refugees back to Asmara.
Eritrea, one of the world’s most secretive nations, has long been an enemy of the now-fugitive former leaders of the Tigray Peoples Liberation Front.
The TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s government for nearly three decades until Prime Minister Anbiy Ahmed Ali came to power in 2018.
During the decades of domination of Ethiopia politics by members of the TPLF, Addis Ababa and Asmara fought a two-decade border war for which Etireat, it would seem, has never forgiven the TPLF.
The conflict only ended in 2018 when newly-elected Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali made peace with Asmara, leading to a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.
Ethopians in Tigray have accused PM Abiy Ahmed Ali of collaborating with Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki to target the people of Tigray.
Earlier this month, the Ethiopian Red Cross warned that thousands of people in Tigray could die of starvation over the next month unless improved humanitarian access to a region is given to aid workers.
About 80 percent of the Tigray population of 6 million inhabitants are not accessible to humanitarian aid workers, according to the United Nations.