(Source: Tghat, 24 February 2021) –
Note: This is a translation of a recent account of events in Sheraro and environs, written in Tigrinya by an eyewitness who chose to remain unnamed. Translation was done by Tigisti (a PhD student in computer science).
Beginning 4 November 2020, there were intense fights in the environs of Sheraro such as Gual-Badme, Adi Bukray and Ademeyti. For that reason, people started to flee eastward to the villages of Tahtay Adyabo and Shire.
The fights until 6 November 2020 were between the Northern Command which were camped in several locations in Adyabo and Tigray Defence Forces (TDF).
On 6 and 7 November 2020, ENDF troops from three divisions namely 8th, 7th and 31st along with their tanks escaped to Eritrea.
On 8 November 2020, militia and TDF started to watch the borders with Eritrea to prevent the troops from reentering.
On 9 November 2020, Eritrean forces started to shell Humera and people started to flee to Sheraro and onwards to Shire using Bajajs, motorbikes, cars and trucks.
What happened in Hilegen?
ENDF had a camp in Hilegen, near Humera towards Tekeze river. When TDF overpowered the ENDF in Dansha, those in Hilegen fired artillery to Omhajer, an Eritrean town, 4 times. This was a drama to give the Eritrean forces an excuse to get involved and attack TDF from both directions.
More people fled Sheraro.
10 November 2020 around 6:00 AM in the morning, artillery bombs started to fall on the outskirts of Sheraro. The administration of Sheraro and TDF leaders left the town that day.
The shelling continued until 11 November 2020. Most of the people left the town before noon.
I was watching from the top of a hill along with three other people. Around 1:00 PM, the bombing got more intense and closer to where we were. Three of them decided to go further away but I went to the town. I was hungry.
The town was very quiet. I went to the place where I was staying but found no one there. I went out to look for a restaurant and found one open. The owner was alone.
I asked, “do you have food?”
She was very scared and said “What shall we do? How can you think of food now?”
I responded with a question “What can I do?”
“I have one injera that I reserved for my daughter.”
“Where is your daughter?”
“She is in the sewage with my mother”
I said “It’s better to remain in the open than hide”
But she was disturbed and didn’t know what she was saying or doing.
While I was talking with her, three men joined us. They said, “they are approaching, what shall we do?”
I suggested that we remain where we were. “What would they do to us if we remain seated?”
Later, a woman with her two children joined us.
They all agreed with my suggestion. We were eight in total. Meanwhile, a young man wearing shorts joined us but he couldn’t stay calm. The owner of the restaurant told him to either stay seated or leave. She said what we all were thinking. The man left. Sadly, he ended up as one of the unfortunates that day.
At 2:26 PM we saw tanks pass by. 17 tanks passed, then came the troops. They came firing along the way. We were anxious.
Soldiers surrounded us and ordered “hands up, on your knees.” We followed the order.
It was a life and death moment.
Before the arrival of their captain, the soldiers discussed killing us all.
They said “we will kill you all”
I asked “what have we done? We stayed here trusting you won’t harm us”.
They replied “It’s you who killed us in Adi Bukray and Gual Badme, so we will kill you all.”
Fortunately, the captain arrived. He has heard what they were saying. He scolded them saying “stop, what have these civilians done?”
We started to be hopeful. The captain ordered them to search us. After searching, they warned us that if we go out, other soldiers will kill us. And they left locking us from outside.
While we were locked, we heard moaning. It was one person among us. He was restless so we let him leave. He was killed. I learned later that he had mental illness.
At 3:30 PM we heard sounds from outside. I got closer to the door and heard they were speaking in Tigrinya. I looked through and saw Eritrean troops. I was surprised. This must have been the first time the Eritrean troops entered Tigray because I haven’t heard such a thing before that day.
We were hearing shots when the soldiers entered Sheraro and wondering why they were firing even though there was no one fighting them. Later, we found out they were shooting at anyone they encountered on the street.
We discussed and decided for the men to leave through the back door and women to stay.
When we went outside, we saw what the Eritrean troops were doing. They were looting. They opened all business and residence houses and were loading properties onto trucks. The looting that everyone is talking about now, we have seen it with our eyes on 11 November 2020. They took everything they could. The rest, they either vandalized it or burned it.
We murmured to each other “this is the fate of Sheraro”!?
On the way, about five Eritrean soldiers called me and asked “what are you doing here?”
I said “we live around here”.
Then, they said “Shouldn’t you save your lives? You better leave before the ENDF soldiers kill you. They have killed many people along the way.”
All the people killed on 11 November 2020 were killed by ENDF.
The Eritrean troops spent the night looting.
Mechanized and infantry arrived during the night. On Nov 12 both invading armies started their joint attacks at Adi Hageray.
Except few elders and us, no one remained in Sheraro. On 12 November 2020, we started to see dead bodies on the street. I have counted 13. More than 20 were killed on 11 November 2020. We asked the ENDF for permission to bury the dead but we were not allowed to. They were laid to rest only after a week.