One man said he counted 55 bodies as he fled from his city in northern Ethiopia over bodies scattered on the streets. Another claimed that about 20 people had been shot in front of him. Yet others claimed that Tigris forces were going from house to house killing men and teenage boys.
Complaints from the town of Kobo are the latest against Tigrai forces, as they push through neighboring Amhara region, which they say is an attempt by the Ethiopian government to end a 10-month war and lift a deadly blockade on their own homes. Both Amhara and Tigrian citizens have joined the war, and the spread of war in one of Africa’s most powerful countries has had little effect on the United States and others’ calls for peace.
The narrative from Kobo is still one of the most deadly known assassinations of Amhar in the most extensive war. Estimates of death there range from dozens to hundreds; It is not clear how many were killed or how many fighters were in contrast to civilians, a line that is becoming increasingly blurred.
The Associated Press spoke with more than a dozen witnesses in Cobo and others in their families at the time of the killings. They said the war started as 9 September war but quickly turned against civilians. At first, Tiger forces who occupied the area in July fought farmers armed with rifles. But after Tiger forces briefly lost and regained control of the city, they went from house to house in retaliation, killing eyewitnesses, witnesses said.
“Whether we die or die, we try our best, but what is heartbreaking is the massacre of innocent civilians,” said Kasahun, an injured resident who was armed. Like those who spoke to the AP after fleeing, he gave his first name to protect family members still in town.
His account was echoed by a health worker who gave first aid to several injured people. Health workers said Tiger forces withdrew from Cabo on the afternoon of September and returned a few hours later, once the local militia units had run out of ammunition and retreated.
“Then the killing started,” he said on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.
The battlefield has been cut off from communication, complicating efforts to verify accounts. Calls to local administrator were not answered. Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission said this week that it had received disturbing reports of “deliberate attacks by TPLF fighters on civilians in the town of Kabo and nearby rural towns.”
The acronym stands for Tigris People’s Liberation Front, which has ruled Ethiopia’s repressive national government for 27 years but has sided with current Prime Minister Abi Ahmed. A political conflict began in November when fighting broke out in the Tigris region, in which thousands of people were killed.
Although there have been reports of atrocities from all sides, the most heinous genocide described by eyewitnesses is against civilians, with gang rape and intentional starvation. They blamed the Ethiopian government, Amhara fighters and Eritrean troops.
However, since the Tigris forces recaptured most of their territory and entered Amhara in June, charges are also being filed against them. Amhara citizens from multiple communities have complained that Tigrai fighters are killing them in retaliation as the war has become more complex and complicated.
Most complaints cannot be verified immediately due to lack of access. But in September, AP Chenna arrived at the scene of an alleged massacre in Tekleheimnot, where at least a dozen Amhars were killed, both fighters and civilians. The AP found bodies lying on the muddy ground, some in combat uniforms and others in civilian clothes, and residents complained that at least 59 people had been picked up at a nearby church.
Tiger forces have denied targeting civilians. Tigre force spokesman Getachu Reda told the AP that Kobo’s accounts were “just a symbol of someone’s imagination.” Our forces had nothing to do with targeting civilians in every house. He blames the locals [fighters], “Irregular units” and said that “those who hid their guns” joined them.
“They fought and our forces had to fight,” Getachu said. Asked about the call for peace, he said, “The issue of ending hostilities needs to be taken seriously, but it takes two in Tango,” referring to the Ethiopian government.
Parents of children suffering from severe malnutrition in Tigra have shared photos with Al Jazeera of the deteriorating situation in Ethiopia’s war-torn region, where communication has been cut off and little help is available.
Read more: https://t.co/corTDw1DYU pic.twitter.com/WqkyqYfpqn
– Al Jazeera English (JAJEnglish) September 24, 2021
Like the Tigers, civilians get caught in the middle.
Mengesha, a resident, said he had counted 55 bodies in the city. It is not clear whether they are fighters or unarmed civilians. “I ran over the corpse,” he said. Like other witnesses, he fled to the town of Desi, 165 kilometers (103 miles) south.
A farmer named Birhanu said he and his friend were on their way home last September when they were reunited with about 20 men.
“They were shot in front of us,” he said. “The fighters took us to their camp and lined us up and then chose who would be shot. I was able to escape with my friend. ”
He said Tiger fighters fired at them as they fled and tore off two fingers of his right hand.
Another resident, Mollah, said he bandaged his wounds with grass and walked for a few days for safety.
“[The Tigray forces] People were being killed indiscriminately, especially men, ”he said. “They dragged them away and their mothers killed them in tears. They killed my uncle and his son-in-law at his door.
A third resident, Ayne, said he was looking out a window when fighters pulled his three brothers out of a house near them and shot four of them in a point-blank range on the street.
“Then the fighters called me out to shoot, but luckily a woman intervened and I escaped. “There were so many bodies, I lost my mind.”
Before fleeing, Kobo residents said they had spent days retrieving the bodies. One store assistant, Tesfaye, said he locked himself in his room, and then counted 50 bodies after the shooting stopped.
“I’ve seen a lot of my friends who died on the streets,” he said. “I was just crying, then I went to bury them.”