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Posts Tagged ‘The Telegraph’

CNN on HUMERA MASSACRE | Men Are Marched Out of Prison Camps. Then Corpses Float Down The River

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on September 5, 2021

The ghostly outlines of limbs emerge through the mist along the Setit River in eastern Sudan. As the river’s path narrows, the drifting bodies become wedged on the silty clay bank and their forms appear more clearly; men, women, teenagers and even children. 

The marks of torture are easily visible on some, their arms held tightly behind their backs.

On a trip to Wad El Hilou, a Sudanese town near the border with Ethiopia, a CNN team counted three bodies in one day. Witnesses and local authorities in Sudan confirmed that in the days after the team’s departure, 11 more bodies arrived downstream.

Evidence indicates the dead are Tigrayans. Witnesses on the ground say the bodies tell a dark story of mass detentions and mass executions across the border in Humera, a town in Ethiopia’s Tigray region.

CNN has spoken with dozens of witnesses collecting the bodies in Sudan, as well as international and local forensic experts and people trapped and hiding in Humera, to reveal what appears to be a new phase of ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia’s war.

Humera is one of many towns involved in the conflict that has ravaged the 112 million-strong east African country since the Ethiopian government launched an offensive in the country’s northern Tigray region in November 2020. Despite Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s initial declaration of victory in late November, the region is still wracked by fighting and CNN has previously reported on the many atrocities including torture, extrajudicial killings, and the use of rape as a weapon of war.

At the end of June this year, the balance of power shifted suddenly as Tigrayan forces recaptured the regional capital, Mekelle, and the Ethiopian government began withdrawing troops from the region. The fighting continued, however. In mid-July, Tigrayan forces announced a new offensive to recapture areas taken by the Ethiopian government.

This new offensive, witnesses told CNN, was what prompted the government forces and militia groups holding the northern town of Humera, close to the border with Eritrea and Sudan, to launch a new phase of mass incarcerations of resident Tigrayans.

CNN’s investigations indicate that the ethnic profiling, detention and killing of Tigrayans bears the hallmarks of genocide as defined by international law.

‘We’re told to look out for the bodies’

In recent weeks, a community of Tigrayans living in the Sudanese town of Wad El Hilou, 65 kilometers (40 miles) downstream from Humera, has assumed the role of excavators and grave diggers for the bodies drifting down the river known in Sudan as the Setit and in Ethiopia as the Tekeze. 

It is arduous and distressing work. The stench from the bodies fills the air as they first extract each corpse from the riverbed and then dig new graves for them, before performing the burial rites.

Tigrayan community leader Gebretensae Gebrekristos, also known as Gerri, helps coordinate and document the recovery of the bodies in Sudan.

Tigrayan community leader Gebretensae Gebrekristos, also known as Gerri, helps coordinate and document the recovery of the bodies in Sudan.

Gebretensae Gebrekristos, known as “Gerri,” is one of the community’s leaders; he helps coordinate the grim task with a solemn determination. In total the community estimates at least 60 bodies have been found so far. He explained how the group is certain the bodies are Tigrayans from Humera. 

“We get calls from people in Humera that witnesses — often escaped detainees — saw people marched down to the river in one of the facilities and heard gunshots, or that a number of people were taken by soldiers from the detention facilities and never returned.  We’re told to look out for their bodies coming down the river.”

The bodies first appeared in Sudan in July when the river was at its highest volume due to the rainy season. Sudanese water engineers told CNN the speed of its flow then would enable the bodies to drift from Humera to Wad El Hilou in approximately two to three hours. Wad El Hilou is a natural pinch-point in the river’s path — and so, when the bodies arrived, they floated towards the banks.

According to Gerri, his community usually finds the exact number of bodies it has been told to expect.

Sixteen-year-old Natay and 17-year-old Gebrey, whose names have been changed for their safety, are among the Tigrayans who said they fled prison camps in Humera. Now in Wad El Hilou, they confirmed to CNN that they heard reports of men, with their hands tied, being marched in single file towards the Humera riverfront, to the area between St. Mary’s and St. Michael’s Church. The boys both say they heard shots ring out and the men did not return.

Natay said he remembered feeling paralyzed: “I was so fearful, thinking that they would kill me and throw me [in] too.”

Sudanese authorities in Wad El Hilou have filed police and coroner reports for each body found in their territory, documenting evidence of the extensive torture and “execution-style” bullet entry wounds found on many of the bodies, the authorities told CNN. Both local Sudanese authorities and forensic experts say all the bodies retrieved so far were likely dead before they hit the water.

In a statement issued via US public relations firm Mercury, the Ethiopian government said it was investigating the allegations. “In light of several inconsistencies in the allegations, we are working with the relevant authorities to gather evidence and will prosecute any individuals found to have committed crimes to the fullest extent of the law,” a spokesperson said.

“The government is keen to reiterate our desire to ensure a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Tigray and is actively working to secure a ceasefire.”

‘Everyone was sick’

For so many of the Tigrayans in Sudan, these bodies could have been people they knew. Many have fled from Humera and still have families there.

Temesgen, 24, and Yonas, 25, say they escaped together from a warehouse in Humera, called Enda Yitbarek, which they describe as being used as a makeshift mass detention camp for thousands of Tigrayans. CNN has changed their names for their safety. They were both imprisoned for just over two weeks.

“I was playing around my house, then they collected me and took me because I am Tigrayan,” Temesgen recalled. “We didn’t do anything, they just collected me and detained me.”

Ethiopia is at war with itself. Here’s what you need to know about the conflict

Inside the warehouse, people were crammed together on the floor without rooms or partitions to create privacy, he said.

“They weren’t providing us food and we didn’t even have access to the toilet,” Yonas said. “Some people were toileting inside the warehouse.”

For Temesgen the real horror was the lack of medical assistance. “Everyone was sick with flu and not getting medical help. They weren’t sending us to hospital,” he said.

Former detainees described to CNN prisoners of all ages squeezed tightly together — from mothers with young children to teenagers to men in their 70s.

Temesgen and Yonas say they escaped while on a rare toilet break permitted by the guards, and made the journey to Sudan. They both talked of multiple prison camps dotted around the city of Humera.

CNN spoke to dozens of other escapees from these camps and, based on their accounts, estimates there are up to nine locations where it is thought thousands of Tigrayans are being detained.

Ethnic profiling

Tigrayans still inside Humera told CNN that they live in constant fear of being detained or killed. They spoke of brazen ethnic profiling whereby residents of Tigrayan ethnicity are targeted and those of other ethnicities are safe, particularly those of the Amhara ethnicity;  militia from Amhara have fought alongside Ethiopian government forces in Tigray.

People of mixed ethnicity face an uncertain fate; residents told CNN that an Amhara ID card can suffice but to be seen socializing with Tigrayans will put someone at risk nonetheless. 

Alem, whose name has also been changed for security reasons, is half-Tigrayan but has a non-Tigrayan ID card and has been helping Tigrayans hide in his home in Humera while the arrests continue. Relatives abroad have urged him to flee, but he insists it’s his duty to stay and help those who are targeted.

Rahel, not her real name, is also Tigrayan but has a non-Tigrayan ID card and says she has been visiting friends and relatives in the prison camps despite the questions posed by guards. She is horrified by the conditions for those detained.

“They can’t move, they are not getting enough sanitation, no food, no water and no medicine. If they feel sick and die, no one cares. They are hungry and thirsty. How could they feel good thinking it’s their turn the next day, knowing their friends were killed yesterday? The guards don’t care about life,” she said.

People in Humera who spoke to CNN repeatedly mentioned the disappearances of members of the Tigrayan community. Those still free assumed they were detained in the camps, but those who escaped from the prisons told CNN that people were frequently summoned by guards and would never return. Others spoke of rare sightings of bodies being dumped into the river.

Across the water in Sudan, Yonas recalled the disappearances from the Enda Yitbarek warehouse.

“They weren’t torturing us but they were taking prisoners often at night and they never came back,” Yonas said. “We don’t know whether they killed them or not, but after they took them they never came back, and their families reported their disappearances.”

Residents of Humera with whom CNN spoke firmly believe the bodies arriving in Wad El Hilou are from their town. Several are in regular touch with those who escaped across the border to Sudan and when the bodies began arriving, news spread fast.

One man has been identified locally as Misganawu, a well-known barber in Humera. ”He had two nicknames, Totit and Gundi,” Alem recalled. “I knew Totit very well when he was working in Humera in that hairdressing shop. He was born and raised in Humera.”

Signs of torture

 Ongoing independent investigations by international and local forensic experts found no evidence that the victims had drowned. The experts, who asked not to be identified due to security concerns, told CNN that the bodies had all been exposed to some form of chemical agent after death, leading to a process which had effectively preserved them before entering the water.

The fact all the bodies were in a similar state indicated they had been stored in a similar environment, possibly a storage facility or a mass grave, before being dumped into the river, the experts said.

This state of preservation makes it easier to identify the marks on the bodies and what could have caused them, the experts said.

Some of those found had their arms bound tightly behind their backs, in keeping with a torture technique called “tabay.”  Several had their hands tied with small gauge yellow electrical wire and bone breakages and dislocations further indicate additional pressure was placed on their bodies before death. 

The experts say they are in a race against time to preserve evidence, in case it is needed for potential war crimes prosecutions in the future. They also confirmed the signs of torture apparent to the group in Sudan who’ve been collecting the corpses.

While investigators in Sudan continue to examine the bodies, Tigrayans and those helping them in Humera face a daily struggle to remain free from arrest and abuse.

And Tigrayans like Gerri, on the other side of the border, mourn and dig shallow graves for the bodies that drift downstream.

Speaking by the first riverside grave he dug, marked with a makeshift wooden cross, Gerri said it pained him to be unable to give them a proper burial.

Source

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Ethiopia’s Tigrayans Rounded Up, Mutilated & Dismembered In Civil War Ethnic Purge

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on September 5, 2021

Sources said that after a series of victories by Tigrayan Defence Forces, the occupying forces in Humera started to purge ethnic Tigrayans.

Courtesy: The Tlegraph

By Lucy Kassa

Forces occupying a major city in Ethiopia are throwing thousands of men, women and children into makeshift “concentration camps”, cutting off limbs and dumping mutilated bodies into mass graves as part of an orchestrated ethnic purge, a dozen separate witnesses told The Telegraph.

Ethnic Amhara forces have been going “door-to-door” to round up anyone who is ethnic Tigrayan in the latest harrowing evidence of population cleansing in Ethiopia’s blood-drenched civil war.

“Feven Berhe was an innocent resident who owned a small shop. They took her to Tekeze river and shot her,” said one resident, who knew the 40-year-old victim well.

“Before they killed her, they removed her eyes and cut off her legs. They did not let anyone pick her body up and bury her.”

Humera is a city of about 50,000 near Ethiopia’s border with Eritrea and Sudan. Because of its strategic location, it was one of the first places to be attacked when Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and Eritrea’s dictator launched a devastating pincer attack to crush Tigray’s regional government in November.

For the last year, ethnic Amhara forces, who hail from a neighbouring region and are allied to the Nobel laureate, have controlled the city, along with swathes of western Tigray.

Sources said that after a stunning series of victories by the Tigrayan Defence Forces in late June, the occupying forces in Humera started to purge ethnic Tigrayans in the city.

The Telegraph understands that on 15 July, Amhara forces held a public meeting in the main municipality hall in Humera to decide the fate of Tigrayans in the areas they controlled.

“They said this; ‘We should exterminate all Tigrayan residents in the city. We must cleanse them all,” said one man who claims he attended the public meeting.

Multiple residents said that a massive campaign of arrests started soon after the meeting.

“They have been going from house to house arresting everyone. No Tigrayan is left except those who fled to Sudan or found a hiding place in the city. They have a list of Tigrayan residents from the administrative offices,” said another man.

“If it is written in your identity card that you are Tigrayan, there is no mercy,” said another.

Children displaced by fighting in northern Ethiopia play among sacks of clothes at the Addis Fana School where they are temporarily sheltered,

At the beginning of August, 43 bloated and bloodied bodies were found floating down the Tekeze River, which separates the region from Sudan.

The Telegraph understands that these were some of the original victims of the purge. Residents say that when the floating bodies attracted huge international attention, Amhara forces started dumping bodies elsewhere.

Elderly people, children and pregnant women have all been taken to several detention centres and three different warehouses across the city, which have been turned into makeshift “concentration camps”, survivors said.

The Telegraph could not confirm these accounts because of major reporting restrictions in Tigray.

However, imagery analysis by Vigil Monitor (previously DX Open Network), an atrocity early warning and detection research organisation based in the UK, shows that ethnic Amhara forces and allied Ethiopian troops have been stationed at ‘numerous’ centres for the past few months.

One man the Telegraph spoke to called Gizau claimed that he had escaped one of the centres by convincing militiamen he was not fully ethnic Tigrayan.

“We were 250 detainees. The Amhara forces take detainees every night and bring new ones. The ones they take never come back,” he said.

Gizau and ten other witnesses said that people were being killed and dumped in pits around the three warehouses and in craters outside the city.

Satellite imagery partially corroborates the sources. It shows a pit roughly the size of a swimming pool outside one of the warehouses, which has been gradually filled up since mid-July.

There is a similar pattern of suspicious pits being filled up slowly over the same time period at the other locations.

“There are very suspicious holes in the ground next to the camps, in an area where no other hole gets filled with earth,” say analysts at Vigil Monitor.

The state president for Ethiopia’s Amhara region Agegnuh Teshager and the Ethiopian Prime Minister’s Office were both approached for comment on The Telegraph’s findings bit neither responded.

*Names have been changed in this article to protect identities.

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Posted in Ethiopia, Life, News/ዜና, War & Crisis | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Tigray Six Months into Northern Ethiopia’s Shadow War its Atrocities Are Becoming Harder to Hide

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on May 15, 2021

For the last six months, communications blackouts and appalling access for human rights researchers and journalists alike have shrouded a conflict raging across the Tigray Region.

But as tens of thousands of Eritrean and Ethiopian national army troops have battled forces loyal to the regional government of Tigray, information has slowly and surely leaked out.

Continuing Atrocities and Denial of Humanitarian Access in Ethiopia’s Tigray Region

US Department of State PRESS STATEMENT

The United States is gravely concerned by the increasing number of confirmed cases of military forces blocking humanitarian access to parts of the Tigray region. This unacceptable behavior places the 5.2 million people in the region in immediate need of humanitarian assistance at even greater risk. The United States unequivocally calls upon the Governments of Eritrea and Ethiopia to take all necessary steps to ensure that their forces in Tigray cease and desist this reprehensible conduct. We also again call on all parties to comply with obligations under international humanitarian law, including those relevant to the protection of civilians, and to cease immediately all hostilities and allow relief to reach those suffering and in greatest need of assistance. The Ethiopian government should lead in this regard and immediately facilitate full and unhindered access for humanitarian actors to all parts of the Tigray region.

There are many credible reports of armed forces in Tigray committing acts of violence against civilians, including gender-based violence and other human rights abuses and atrocities. The conduct of the Eritrean Defense Forces and Amhara regional forces have been particularly egregious. The continued presence of Eritrean forces in Tigray further undermines Ethiopia’s stability and national unity. We again call upon the Government of Eritrea to remove its forces from Tigray. Both Eritrean and Ethiopian authorities have repeatedly promised such a withdrawal, but we have seen no movement towards implementation. We equally urge the Government of Ethiopia to withdraw Amhara regional forces from the Tigray region and ensure that effective control of western Tigray is returned to the Transitional Government of Tigray. Prime Minister Abiy and President Isais must hold all those responsible for atrocities accountable.

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Posted in Ethiopia, Infos, Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

‘At Least’ 78 Priests ‘Massacred’ in One Zone of Tigray | በትግራይ አንድ ዞን ‹ቢያንስ› ፸፰/78 ካህናት ‹ተጨፍጭፈዋል›

Posted by addisethiopia / አዲስ ኢትዮጵያ on May 10, 2021

…leaked letter claims.

12 Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers barged into the sacred room of the church. “They entered the holy room with their shoes. They shouted over us saying; ‘You are our enemies because you have comforted and preached to the villagers that this shall pass.”

፲፪/12 የኢትዮጵያ እና የኤርትራ ወታደሮች ከነጫማቸው ወደ ቤተ መቅደሱ ገቡ። ከዚያም ጮኹብን ‘እናንተ ጠላቶቻችን ናችሁ ምክንያቱም የመንደሩ ነዋሪዎችን ስላጽናናችሁ እና ስለ ሰበካችሁ ነው። አሁን ግን ይህ አብቅቷል!”

💭 Very sad, nevertheless Great reporting, dear Lucy Kassa – many blessings to you. Please to have a detailed one-on-one interview with His Holiness, Abune Matthias. A golden opportunity for us all! Please, if you could!

💭 በጣም አሳዛኝ ነው፤ ቢሆንም ታላቅ ዘገባ ውድ ሉሲ ካሳ ፥ ብዙ በረከቶችን እንመጭልሻለን። ሱሲ፤ ከብፁዕ ወቅዱስ አቡነ ማትያስ ጋር ዝርዝር እና አንድ-ለአንድ የሆነ ቃለ ምልልስ ለማድረግ ብትችይ በጎ ይሆን ነበር፡፡ ለሁላችንም ወርቃማ እድል ነው! እባክሽ ከቻልሽ ፍጠኚ!

The document, obtained exclusively by the Telegraph, claims a number of mass killings have taken place over the last five months

At least 78 priests were ‘massacred’ in one zone of Tigray, according to an official church letter leaked to the Telegraph.

The letter, which was addressed to the Synod of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church, says that “priests, deacons, choristers, and monks” have been “massacred” over the last five months.

Half a dozen survivors confirmed the news to this newspaper and said that both Ethiopian national army soldiers and Eritrean troops went into their holy spaces across southeast Tigray and “shot them down”.

Ethiopia has been wracked by a horrific civil war since the Nobel Peace Prize winner Abiy Ahmed sent his national army into the mountainous northern region of Tigray to oust the powerful regional government there on November 4.

The news comes several days after a video was smuggled out of the country showing the head of Ethiopia’s Orthodox Church Abune Mathias condemning what he calls a ‘genocide’ being committed on the ethnic Tigrayan people by the Ethiopian state.

The conflict has released an almighty humanitarian crisis and neither priests nor religious sites have not been spared.

Centuries-old monasteries and mosques, including the 6th century Debre Damo monastery and Al-Nejashi, Africa’s first Mosque, have been looted and bombed by Eritrean troops who are allied to Ethiopia’s government in Addis Ababa.

The stamped letter was sent on April 15 and lists the number of clergymen killed over the past five months in the church administrations.

Priests who survived the killings told the Telegraph the number of dead clergymen could be much higher than 78.

Gergera Maryam, Adi’Zeban Karagiorgis, Kidanemihret Bosa, Taksa and the monastery of Da Abune Ayzgi are some of the churches where churchmen were massacred, according to witnesses.

Kahsay* and his deacon son Halfom* fled their homes to the nearby mountains of Seharti after receiving news that the Eritrean and Ethiopian troops were raiding churches.

Two days later, Halfom returned back to the church in their village to see if the situation had improved. “I begged my son not to go back. He promised me he would return. But he did not return. The Eritrean soldiers killed my son” says Kahsay, an old man. “I learned a week later the villagers picked up my son’s body. I did not attend his burial. He was only 25.”

In Ethiopian Orthodox tradition, many priests and deacons gather in churchyards to celebrate Saints’ Celebration days.

Three witnesses told the Telegraph that Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers specifically target these celebration days to execute members of the church.

“In the afternoon of January 9, there were many of us in the church of Adi’Zeban Karagiorgis. We were there to celebrate the birth of the Virgin Mary,” one witness who asked to remain anonymous, said. “Suddenly, eight Ethiopian soldiers entered the churchyard. The soldiers picked 12 young deacons between the ages of 15 and 20. They took them out and shot them down,” he says.

Hadera*, an old priest, survived a massacre at the church of Gergera Da Mariam. He says there have been various killings and massacres since early December 2020.

The 76-year-old says he was praying on February 1 when 12 Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers barged into the sacred room of the church.

“They entered the holy room with their shoes. They shouted over us saying; ‘You are our enemies because you have comforted and preached to the villagers that this shall pass. You should not have done that,” recounts Hadera.

“There were six priests in the room. They shot us all and left the church. My friends died. It is nothing short of a miracle I survived.”

The Telegraph approached Eritrea’s information minister, Yemane Gebremeskel and spokeswoman of the Ethiopian Prime Minister office Billene Seyoum for comment. Neither had replied at the time of going to press.

Source

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Posted in Ethiopia, Faith, Infos, Life | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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