A man said that when he fled from a town in northern Ethiopia, he counted 55 bodies and stepped on the bodies scattered on the street. Another claimed that he was rounded up by about 20 men who were shot and killed in front of him. Others, however, claimed that Tigray’s troops were killing men and teenage boys from house to house.
The allegations from the town of Cobo are the latest against the Tigray forces because they are advancing into the neighboring Amhara region, and they call it an attempt to put pressure on the Ethiopian government to end the 10-month war and end the war against them A fatal blockade of one’s own home. Both Amhara and Tigrayan civilians joined the battle, and as the war spread in one of Africa’s most powerful countries, the United States and other countries’ appeals for peace had little effect.
The narrative from Kobo is the most extensive of the deadliest Amhara killings known in the war. Estimates of the death toll there range from dozens to hundreds; it is not clear how many people were killed in total, or how many were combatants rather than civilians, and this line is becoming increasingly blurred.
The Associated Press spoke with more than a dozen witnesses who were in Cobo during the killing and other people who had family members there. They said that the battle began on September 9, but quickly turned to fighting against civilians. At first, the Tigray troops who took over the area in July fought against peasants armed with rifles. But witnesses said that after the Tigray forces briefly lost and regained control of the town, they retaliated by killing from house to house.
“We did our best, whether we are dead or alive, but the heartbreaking is the massacre of innocent civilians,” said Casahun, a wounded resident who was armed with a gun. Like other people who talked with Midland after escaping, he only revealed his name to protect his family members who were still in the city.
His statement was endorsed by a health worker who provided first aid to several wounded. Health workers said that the Tigray troops withdrew from Cobo on the afternoon of September 9 and returned a few hours later. The local militia ran out of ammunition and retreated.
“Then the killing started,” he said, refusing to be named for fear of retaliation.
The combat area is in a state of communication interruption, which complicates the verification of accounts. No one answered the call to the local administrator. The Human Rights Commission, appointed by the Ethiopian State, said this week that it had received “disturbing reports” that “TPLF fighters deliberately attacked civilians in the town of Kobo and surrounding rural towns.”
This acronym stands for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which ruled Ethiopia’s autocratic national government for 27 years but was put aside by the current Prime Minister Abi Ahmed. In November, a political dispute broke out in the Tigray area, killing thousands of people.
Although all parties reported the atrocities, the most serious massacres described by witnesses were against Tigray civilians, as well as gang rape and deliberate starvation. They were blamed on the Ethiopian government, Amharic fighters and Eritrean soldiers.
However, since the Tigray army recaptured most of their area in June and entered Amhara, accusations against them have been increasing. Amharic civilians in multiple communities claimed that as the war became larger and more complex, Tigray fighters were killing them in retaliation.
Due to the inaccessibility, most of the allegations could not be confirmed immediately. But in September, the Associated Press arrived at the site of the alleged massacre in Chenna Teklehaymanot. At least dozens of Amhara were reported to have been killed, including soldiers and civilians. The Associated Press saw corpses scattered on the muddy ground. Some were wearing soldier uniforms and others in plain clothes. Residents claimed that at least 59 people were buried in a nearby church cemetery.
The Tigray forces denied targeting civilians.Tigray Force spokesperson Getachew Reda told The Associated Press that Kobo’s account was “just a fictional imagination. Without our troops, it went deep into every household and targeted civilians.” He blamed the locals. [fighters], “Irregular units”, and said that “people with guns” joined them.
“They fought, and our troops had to fight back,” Getaqiu said. When asked about the appeal for peace, he said that “the cessation of hostilities needs to be taken seriously, but tango needs two people”, referring to the Ethiopian government.
The parents of a severely malnourished child in Tigray shared with Al Jazeera pictures of the deteriorating situation in the war-affected area of Ethiopia, where communications were interrupted and assistance was scarce.
-Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) September 24, 2021
Just like in Tigray, civilians are caught in the middle.
A resident named Mengsha said that he counted 55 bodies in the town. It is not clear whether they are fighters or unarmed civilians. He said: “I stepped on the body and escaped.” Like other witnesses, he fled to the town of Desi, 165 kilometers (103 miles) south.
Farmer Birhanu said that he and his friend were walking home on September 9 when they were rounded up by about 20 men.
“They were shot in front of us,” he said. “The soldiers took us to their camp, let us line up, and then choose who would be shot. I managed to escape with my friend.”
He said that the Tigray soldiers shot at them as they fled, cutting off two fingers of his right hand.
Another resident, Molla, said that he bandaged the wound with grass and then walked for several days to reach safety.
“[The Tigray forces] Killing indiscriminately, especially men,” he said. “When their mother was crying, they dragged them out and killed them. They killed my uncle and his son-in-law at his door. “
Ayene, the third resident, said that he looked out the window and the soldiers took his three brothers from their nearby homes and shot them at close range on the street, as well as four others.
“Then the soldiers told me to go out and shoot, but luckily a woman stepped in and I was rescued,” he said. “With so many corpses, I lost my mind.”
Before fleeing, the residents of Kobo said they had spent several days recovering the body. A clerk, Tesfaye, said he locked himself in the house and counted 50 bodies after the gunfire stopped.
“I saw many friends die in the street,” he said. “I was just crying, and then I went to bury them.”