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Newsdeck

Ethiopia Rights Group Says Tigray Youths Massacred 600 People

Ethiopian Amhara militia fighters, that combat alongside federal and regional forces against northern region of Tigray, in the Northwest of the city of Gondar, Ethiopia, on November 09, 2020. Photographer: Eduardo Soteras/AFP/Getty Images

(Bloomberg) --An informal militia comprising Tigrayan youths killed at least 600 Ethiopian civilians identified as belonging to other ethnic groups on Nov. 9, according to an independent human rights body.

The massacre occurred less than a week after the start of a conflict between federal forces and soldiers of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front in the northern Ethiopian region.

The youths, known as Samri, and local security officers went door to door, killing people of Amhara and Wolkait origin in Maikadra, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission. Victims were beaten, stabbed, hacked with machetes or hatchets, or strangled, the commission said.

The death toll could rise as there were individuals unaccounted for at the time of EHRC’s visit to the town, said the group, which is funded by the national government and is based in the capital, Addis Ababa. Amnesty International said on Nov. 13 that hundreds of people may have been killed. More than 40,000 civilians have fled to neighboring Sudan to seek refuge, according to the United Nations.

Read more: Massacre in North Ethiopia Leaves Scores Dead, Amnesty Says

“The unimaginably atrocious crime committed against civilians for no reason other than their ethnicity is heartbreaking,” Chief Commissioner Daniel Bekele said in the report.

“We call upon the international community to condemn these atrocious acts of crimes against humanity and its perpetrators in no uncertain terms,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a statement. “The government will spare no effort in bringing the perpetrators to justice.”

Debretsion Gebremichael, Tigray regional president, did not immediately respond to text messages seeking comment about the report.

The U.S. National Security Council urged the parties to “end this conflict now” on its Twitter account.

Read More: Ethiopia Says It’s Seized Control of Most of Rebel Tigray Region

Federal troops invaded Tigray on Nov. 4 after months of tensions between Abiy’s federal government and the TPLF, which has been politically sidelined since he took office in 2018. The national government accuses the TPLF of attacking an army base and says its forces are closing in on Mekelle, the capital of Tigray. The region’s government says the fighting has displaced 100,000 people.

Addis Ababa has so far declined calls for mediation, including one from the African Union. However, several African leaders withdrew a request for an informal UN Security Council meeting to discuss the situation, according to diplomats.

(Updates with government comment in the sixth paragraph and U.S. National Security Council tweet in eighth paragraph)
–With assistance from David Wainer.

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