The reported killings took place in Mai-Kadra, a town in the southwest of the region, on the night of November 9th, according to the international NGO.
International news agency CNN has not independently confirmed the deaths. Photos and videos digitally verified and geotagged by Amnesty International showed bodies strewn across the city or carried on stretchers.
“We have confirmed the massacre of a very large number of civilians, who appear to have been in no way involved in the ongoing military offensive,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International director for Eastern and Southern Africa.
“This is a horrible tragedy which only the true magnitude will tell us since communication to Tigray remains closed. ”
Ethiopia’s federal government declared “war” with the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), earlier this month. Ethiopian Prime Minister and Nobel Laureate Abiy Ahmed ordered the Ethiopian defense forces to conduct a “law enforcement operation” in the region, which includes airstrikes.
Witnesses in Mai-Kadra, who provided food and other supplies to EDF, told Amnesty International that they saw dead bodies, as well as injured survivors. The injuries to the victims appear to have been inflicted by sharp weapons, they told the human rights organization, which commissioned an independent pathologist to confirm the information.
“These wounded told me that they had been attacked with machetes, axes and knives. You can also tell from the wounds that those who died were attacked by sharp objects, ”an anonymous witness told Amnesty International.
An Amnesty press secretary told CNN that witnesses spoke anonymously for fear of reprisal.
The current cycle of tensions in Tigray began in August when Abiy’s government delayed scheduled elections because it said the risk of Covid-19 was too high. Tigray officials still held their own elections in September, with more than two million people showing up to vote.
In retaliation, the federal government withheld funding from the TPLF leadership in Mekelle, promising to send it directly to local leaders instead. This sparked off a series of recriminations and rhetoric between the regional government and the federal government which has grown steadily.
Last week, Ethiopia’s federal government announced a six-month state of emergency, giving it broad security powers. On Thursday, parliament voted to remove immunity from prosecution for 39 members of the House, including several high-ranking members of the TPLF and regional Tigray chairman Debretsion Gebremichael, according to a statement from a newly formed task force for deal with the situation.
The TPLF accused the federal government of unfairly purging its party members.
Around 150 people of “ethnically diverse” origins have also been arrested in Addis Ababa, the capital, and in various parts of the country on suspicion of colluding with the TPLF to incite “conflicts and carry out terrorist attacks”, according to one. another press release from the working group.
Abiy faces international diplomatic pressure from the US, UK and UN to defuse tensions, but has so far continued the military operation.