ASMARA, 26 February 2021 – The government of Eritrea has dismissed reports that its forces have been involved in mass killings in Ethiopia as preposterous.
Eritrean troops slaughtered hundreds of civilians over a two-day period last November in the holy city of Aksum situated in Ethiopia’s restive northern Tigray region.
We “categorically rejected” the accusations, Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane G. Meskel, told reporters Friday.
The report by the London-based Amnesty International pointedly blames Eritrean forces for the mass killings which occurred on 28 and 29 November 2020 in many parts of the holy city of Aksum.
Amnesty International has said the mass slaughter of those two days may amount to a crime against humanity.
“The report is largely based on testimonies of some 31 individuals from the Hamdayet Refugee camp in the Sudan,” Meskel wrote on Twitter.
The Eritrean minister claimed that the accusers in the camp are ousted officials or fighters loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Meskel questioned their credibility, alleging that ousted TPLF members have, themselves, been accused of a “hideous massacre” – probably meaning “heinous massacre” – in Mai-Kadra earlier in the conflict.
Amnesty has said its report stands on solid ground.
Amnesty has said its report is based on facts, accounts by 41 survivors of the massacre, and on accounts by eyewitnesses as well as interviews with refugees from Tigray who fled across the border into camps in neighboring Sudan.
The rights group also conducted numerous phone interviews with witnesses in the holy city.
Amnesty has also “provided satellite imagery analysis showing evidence consistent with new burial sites,” the BBC reported Friday.
Africa Freedom Network has demanded but still awaits to be given access.
Survivors and witnesses provided the names of more than 200 people they knew who were killed in Aksum.
One eytewitnesses said the bodies of victims – girls, boys, women, children and the elderly – who were shot dead by Eritrean forces were lying in the streets of the city for days, with hyenas eating some of the bodies.
Amnesty International cited an unnamed civil servant who esimtates that the death toll over the two-day period could be as hight as 800 people killed.
A church deacon in Aksum also gave “over 800 killed” as his estimate for the death toll.
The deacon assisted with burials in mass graves, notably helping to identify victims by matching their faces with the photos on their identity cards.
The governments of Ethiopia and Eitrea have maintained that Eritrean fores were never deployed in Tigray.