A local youth group assisted by the police and the militia killed at least 600 people in “rampage” on November 9 in the Northern Tigray area of Ethiopia, said the National Rights Watchdog said Tuesday.
Massacre in the city of Mai-Kadra was the worst attack on civilians during the Ethiopian internal conflict which complained of federal power against the leaders of the Tigray Party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.
Amnesty International previously reported that “scores, and possibly hundreds, of people were stabbed or hacked to death” in November 9 attacks in the Mai-Kadra.
But Tuesday’s report from the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission provides a more detailed account, accusing the Tigrayan youth group known as “Samri” targeting non-Tigrayan seasonal labourer who work in sesame and sorghum farms in the area.
EHRC is an agency affiliated by the government but independent whose chief commissioner, Daniel Bekele, was appointed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
The perpetrators “killed hundreds of people, beating them with batons/ sticks, stabbing them with knives, machetes, and axes and strangled them with ropes. They also looted and destroyed the property,” said the report.
Sources include eyewitnesses and members of the committee formed to bury the dead “estimates that at least 600 have been killed and said the number tends to be higher,” said the report, even though it was noted that the dead remained inprecise.
“Mismatch between a number of bodies and limited burial capacity meant burial takes three days,” said the report.
Abiy announced military operations in Tigray on November 4, said that they were responding to attacks on federal military camps arranged by TPLF leadership.
His office has won media reports blaming pro-TPLF forces for the Mai-Kadra massacre, saying “atrocities” like that shows why the leaders must be stripped of all power.
But Tigrayan refugees from Mai-Kadra who fled across the border to Sudan blamed government forces for the murder there.
The United Nations and human rights groups have called for an impartial probe to determine exactly what happened.
Tigray remains under the combination of communication blackout and media access to the region has been restricted.
The western region of Tigray, where the Mai-Kadra was located, saw a heavy fighting on the first days of conflict but is now under federal control.The battle has pushed more than 40,000 people to Sudan and reportedly killed hundreds.