ADDISABABA: A Tigrayan youth group accused Ethiopia state-appointed rights watchdog on Tuesday of killing hundreds of civilians as federal and local forces both declared victories in the country’s mountainous north in a three-week battle.
The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that enemy soldiers were surrendering as they marched towards the regional capital, but the Tigrayans reported fighting and destroying a prominent division of the army.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission released results of an attack in Mai Kadra in southwest Tigray on November 9, first mentioned by Amnesty International, where it said that at least 600 members of the Amhara and Wolkait ethnic groups in the city were killed by a youth group called Samri.
They were beaten to death, stabbed, set on fire and strangled with cords, the study said while by concealing them in houses, some residents shielded neighbours. In the “massacre,” the tribunal accused local forces of colluding.
The Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was not readily available, but previously denied participation. Hundreds have died since war began on Nov 4, more than 41,000 refugees have fled to Sudan, and people have been widespreadly devastated and rooted from homes.
The conflict extended to Eritrea, where the Tigrayans fired missiles, and even impacted Somalia, where several hundred Tigrayans were disarmed by Ethiopia in a peacekeeping force against Al Qaeda-linked militants.
The government of Abiy said that many Tigrayan combatants had reacted to a 72-hour ultimatum to lay down weapons before a threatened offensive against half a million inhabitants of Mekelle region. On Wednesday, the deadline ends.
A different version was provided by the battle-hardened TPLF, which had ruled the area of more than 5 million residents, claiming their troops were holding federal forces at bay and scoring victories.
A significant army unit, which he designated as the 21st mechanised division, was destroyed in an assault at Raya-Wajirat led by a former commander of that unit now fighting for the TPLF, their spokesman Getachew Reda said. Prime Minister Billene Seyoum’s spokeswoman refuted that.
The government version that Mekelle is surrounded at about 50 km (30 mile) distance has been denied by TPLF chief Debretsion Gebre-michael. The UN Security Council was supposed to hold informal talks about Tigray on Tuesday, but that was postponed to allow AU envoys time to fly to Ethiopia, diplomats said.
Abiy, who last year received the Nobel Peace Prize for breaking a standoff with Eritrea, said that while he expects to receive AU envoys, he would not bargain with the TPLF.
His predecessor, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn, denounced the well-intentioned outsiders” mediation attempts that he declared obscured TPLF violations and overestimated their meaning in Ethiopian society.
“The key problem in the approach of the international community to Ethiopia is the assumption of moral equivalence, which, he wrote in Foreign Policy magazine, leads foreign governments to adopt an attitude of false balance and ambiguity between the federal and Tigrayan sides.”