At least 600 civilians were killed in northern Ethiopia on November 9th due to their ethnicity, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) alleged on Tuesday.
The EHRC on November 24th released a preliminary report into the attack, which took place in Maikadra, a town in Ethiopia’s northernmost Tigray region.
The state-appointed human rights watchdog said in its report that “an informal group of Tigrayan youth known as ‘Samri,’ aided and abetted by members of … the local administration and security establishment in Maikadra” were responsible for “an atrocious massacre” of civilians on the night of November 9.
The alleged perpetrators carried out “door-to-door raids and kill[ed] hundreds of people they identified as ethnic ‘Amharas and Wolkait origin,’ by beating them with sticks; stabbing them with knives, machetes, and hatchets; and strangling them with ropes,” according to the report. “They also severely injured many people and looted or destroyed properties.”
The EHRC said it estimated that 600 people died in the massacre. However, the group cautioned that the death toll may still rise, citing “reports of individuals unaccounted for at the time of EHRC’s visit and bodies hidden in fields outside Maikadra.”
Upon learning of the massacre, the Ethiopian National Defense Forces (EDF) deployed troops to Maikadra on November 10, forcing the alleged perpetrators of the attacks to retreat from the city.
The commission said its investigation into the acts of violence committed in Maikadra on November 9th “strongly indicate … of grave human rights violations which may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes.”
The EHRC’s findings echo a report on the massacre by Amnesty International on November 12th, which said that “likely hundreds of people were stabbed or hacked to death in Mai-Kadra … on the night of 9 November.”
The human rights group said it had “spoken to witnesses who said forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) were responsible for the mass killings, apparently after they suffered defeat from the federal EDF forces.”
The Ethiopian government launched a military offensive against the TPLF, a Marxist separatist group, on November 4th after the TPLF allegedly attacked a federal military base. The clashes follow years of long-standing tension between the two parties.
Survivors of the November 9th Maikadra massacre said they were attacked by members of the Tigray Special Police Force and other TPLF members, according to Amnesty International.
“There was a military operation by the EDF and Amhara Special Force against the Tigray Special Police and militia at a place called Lugdi during the daytime on 9 November. After they defeated the Tigray forces, the EDF spent the night on the outskirts of Mai-Kadra town,” a civilian who entered the town on November 10 after it was retaken by the EDF told Amnesty International.
“When we entered, we saw a lot of dead bodies, soaked in blood, on the streets and rental dormitories frequented by seasonal workers. The view was really debasing, and I am still in shock struggling to cope with the experience,” the person said.
Tigrayan officials have denied that pro-TPLF troops were involved in the Maikadra incident.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on November 22th issued the TPLF an ultimatum to surrender, saying the EDF was closing in on Tigray’s capital, Mekelle, and planned to surround the city with troops and tanks. TPLF forces have so far refused the ultimatum.
The conflict has displaced more than 33,000 Ethiopians, the majority of whom have fled to neighbouring Sudan to avoid the fighting.