The massacres in Tigray – Witnesses: priests and civilians horribly slaughtered

Eritrea Ethiopia Tigray
(Source: Avenier,  By Paolo Lambruschi, 14 February 2021) – 
The confirmations of the witnesses of the massacres: thirty priests killed by soldiers in the church in Irob in January. Almost two hundred people, among them women and children, died in the bombings.
A young Tigrinya woman displaced in Qadarif, Suda
A young Tigrinya woman displaced in Qadarif, in Suda – LaPresse

And the mass rapes, killings and forced deportations to Eritrea of ​​Eritrean refugees from the Hitsats and Shimelba camps, which satellite images have shown destroyed and which in recent days the Addis Ababa government has declared that it no longer wants to reopen while the The UN was no longer able to access it. The information provided to us by Catholic sources, which we do not mention for security reasons, is unequivocal. In Irob, a semi-desert plain bordering the Afar region and Eritrea, 30 Coptic Orthodox priests praying in church were killed in January alone. Wukro, Adigrat and Kobo lack food and medicine.

Chilling stories of the killings of very young people under the eyes of their parents, one hundred only in Irob, and of the frequent sexual violence against women and girls even in front of their husbands, often followed by the merciless killing of the victims. “Better to kill the women of Tigray because tomorrow they will give birth to the woyane (members of the Tplf, ed) ” the Eritrean military would have said to those who asked why so much hatred. At the end of January, also in Irob, Ethiopians and Eritreans killed 50 “wives of the Woyane”. On Friday for the first time, the Ethiopian government, with a tweet from the women’s minister Filsan Abdullahi Ahmed, admitted that a government task force “unfortunately has established that the sexual violence took place with certainty and without any doubt”.

Filsan did not specify who was responsible, but many women claim to have been raped by Eritrean forces, the Shabia, soldiers in plastic sandals who were ordered to also eliminate Tigrinya males over the age of six, prohibiting their burial. The NGO Human Rights Watch’s accusation against federal and Eritrean troops was circumstantiated: in November they allegedly bombed schools, hospitals, churches and markets in Humera, Macallè and Scire, killing 187 civilians including women and children and injuring over 300.

Religious symbols were not spared. K. witnessed the bombing of the St. Amanuel Orthodox Church in the mountaintop village of Negash on November 23 and 24 by Isaias Afewerki’s tanks and heavy artillery. Catholic missions and convents were also looted, often religious men and women were even robbed of crucifixes worn around their necks. The federal army and especially the Eritrean allies – bitter enemies of the Tplf, the hegemonic party of the Tigray – still in Tigrinya territory, are on the dock. Presence denied by the Asmara regime and the Ethiopian government (but admitted by local authorities and federal commanders) even in recent days, when the US and the EU asked Eritrea to immediately withdraw the soldiers, guilty of unspeakable violence, and the establishment of an independent commission of inquiry. Which will also have to face the drama of the deported Eritrean refugees, probably 10 thousand.

For the first time, the Addis Ababa government recognizes the sexual violence that took place in the fighting area Italian Caritas: after a hundred days of war we are always alongside the population

​The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi instead denounced the disappearance of 20,000 Eritrean refugees out of the 96,000 under Ethiopian protection in four camps in Tigray. We managed to contact some fugitives in Macalle by telephone to reconstruct the facts. “On November 20, around eight in the evening, the Shabias arrived – says Kidane, 28, who has been in Hitsats for two – we recognized them by their uniform. They fired on those who could not escape such as refugee elders, women and children, killing them and capturing many people. I saw Hitsats destroyed and escaped. Along the way I saw many corpses ». Shimelba, a camp of 8,500 Eritreans of the Cunama ethnic group, was destroyed in early January. «But on the evening of November 26th he shabia himthey surrounded the camp and raided – recalls Haddar. 30 years – warning us not to run away.

They distributed 5 kilos of flour per person, then called the 5 leaders of the camp to meet them and asked how many we were. They took them away and before leaving they shot 5 Tplf guardians, preventing us from burying them. Anyone who wanted could leave, in Tigrai or Eritrea, but not stay. The next day, the Tigrinya militias returned, telling us to stay and guaranteeing protection. But when the Eritreans returned on January 5, they fled. Isaias’s army started burning everything and killing women and children as well. Those who failed to escape, the majority, were deported on foot to Shiraro and from there by truck to Eritrea, to Shambuko ».

What fate has befallen the deportees in Eritrea? Several sources complete Haddar’s account by proving that yet another crime has been committed. Cunama refugees are prisoners in reception camps waiting for Covid to pass. I’m in a sorry state because I’ve been undernourished for weeks. The regime wants to send young people to training camps for the lifelong conscription from which they fled. The others, once the pandemic is over, will return to the villages. Faced with this forgotten tragedy, Caritas Italian has called for solidarity by launching a fundraiser to support the aid program of Caritas Ethiopia to guarantee food for malnourished children, the distribution of survival kits and the delivery of seeds and animals to displaced families who have lost everything.



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