After conducting an independent investigation, Amnesty said that scores — and likely hundreds — of people were stabbed or hacked to death in Mai-Kadra.
“This is a horrific tragedy whose true extent only time will tell as communication in Tigray remains shut down,” said the regional director for the human rights organization, Deprose Muchena, in a statement at the time.
A clean-up operation began as bodies were buried and the injured were rushed to hospital.
“When we arrived, we found that many people had been killed or injured,” another local resident, whom Amnesty International connected to CNN, said over the phone. “Then we worked together to pick up the dead and take the wounded to the hospital.”
Speaking under the condition of anonymity, he said families buried their own dead and the government buried those who were unclaimed. The witness, who came into Mai-Kadra as an EDF volunteer, estimated that 150-200 people were attacked but added that quantifying exact numbers was difficult in such a large place.
The volunteer said it will be difficult to regain his “sanity,” after seeing something so gruesome for the first time. The struggle between the federal government and the TPLF is not over yet, he warned.
“In Ethiopia, I have never seen anything so bad at my age. It will take a lot of work to make the local community more resilient in the future, as well as to prevent the families of the deceased from taking revenge,” he said.
A medical doctor in the Mai-Kadra area said under condition of anonymity that the attack was carried out with sharp objects, like machetes and knives. He said the victims must have tried to defend themselves at one point, because some were killed by guns.
Patients were treated at his hospital within 24 hours, with those who were severely injured referred to more suitable institutions. There was no electricity, internet or running water in the town and the only activity was that of defense forces and aid workers.
“When I arrived in Mai-Kadra town, corpses were seen on the streets,” he said. “We went into some houses and found that there was no water or electricity, not even for us. It was impossible for anyone to work and eat around the area.”
He said it was impossible to quantify the deaths, and it remains to be seen who carried out the attack.
Tigray civilians paying the price
As Ethiopian troops close in on
Tigray’s capital of Mekelle, leaders of the TPLF refuse to surrender. In a statement posted by the TPLF on Facebook Wednesday, Tigrayan leaders vowed that “the people of Tigray will never kneel down to actions of aggressors,” as Abiy said the deadline for them to surrender had expired.
The Tigrayan leaders accused federal forces of killing innocent civilians while targeting churches and homes. The government has denied targeting civilians and CNN has been unable to verify claims from either parties due to the communications blackout. Internet, mobile phones and landlines are all down.
While the warring factions sling accusations at each other, hundreds of civilians are dying across the region as violence continues.
Halka Alm, a 42-year-old father of three, arrived in Hamdayet, Sudan from a village in Ethiopia which he told CNN was attacked by “abusive soldiers” with guns, knives and machetes during the night. He also fled on foot to the border and some of his children and other relatives got lost along the way.
He accused Abiy’s army of targeting ethnic Tigrayans and his home was looted. Redwan Hussein, the government spokesperson for the State of Emergency task force, told CNN on Wednesday that no civilians had been killed by the federal forces that they knew of.
“We lost everything,” Halka said. “Yesterday we went to a nearby lake to wash what we were wearing.”
There have been reports of atrocities
since Abiy ordered air strikes and a ground offensive against Tigray’s rulers for defying his authority.
The situation risks spiralling “totally out of control”and war crimes may have been committed, the United Nations said on November 13, as repercussions spread around the volatile Horn of Africa.
The US State Department’s top diplomat for Africa and the US Ambassador to Ethiopia told reporters on a call Thursday that the chance of a mediated settlement in the growing Ethiopian conflict seems slim at the moment.
“Neither the Ethiopian government nor the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) are interested in mediation at this point,” said Tibor Nagy, the US assistant secretary of state for African affairs.
A refugee crisis
Hundreds have died and at least 30,000 refugees have fled to neigboring Sudan, according to the UN.
Most of them are entering through the Hamdayet and Lugdi border crossings, according to the UNHCR. They are taken to transit centres such as the one at Hamdayet and held there until they are registered and relocated to refugee camps scattered across the Kassala and Gedaref states in Sudan.
Hamdayet is a small transit center with a capacity for 300 people but already nearly 20,000 have arrived, according to the UN. To mitigate the risk of coronavirus spreading among the population, social distancing has been introduced in registration areas, ensuring a two-meter space between refugees.
Refugees arriving at Lugdi are transported by the Sudanese government to a site called Village 8. With only 1,200 housing units available, the population has passed 10,000 people as of November 18, according to the UN. Due to logistical problems and congestion in Lugdi, refugees have yet to be transferred from Village 8 to a refugee settlement site.
Village 8 is only accessible by crossing a river, using one small ferry. This has resulted in long waiting times.
Humanitarian organizations are struggling to provide services amid the tsunami of refugees, said the World Food Programme (WFP), the food assistance branch of the UN.
“We have enough food for 60,000 people for one month,” the country director of the WFP, Hameed Nuru, said on Wednesday. “The situation in the camps at the moment is a bit chaotic. People have arrived with little or nothing and are camping out in the open, making makeshift shelters out of cloth and wood, or staying in temporary communal shelters.”