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The Telegraph

Hundreds of Ethiopians ‘hacked to death’ as civil conflict spirals out of control

Hundreds of civilians have been killed this week in a gruesome massacre in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, according to Amnesty International, in an act that the UN said could amount to war crimes. On Monday evening in the small town of Mai-Kadra, a few kilometers from the Sudanese border, “scores, and likely hundreds” of people were stabbed or hacked to death, Amnesty said, based on verified photos and videos the scene and interviews with witnesses. “We have confirmed the massacre of a very large number of civilians, who appear to have been day labourers in no way involved in the ongoing military offensive,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s director for East and Southern Africa. The UN Human Rights chief, Michelle Bachelet has called for an inquiry, expressing concerns that the situation could “spiral totally out of control”. “If confirmed as having been deliberately carried out by a party to the current fighting, these killings of civilians would of course amount to war crimes,” she said. Amnesty said it had not been able to independently verify who was responsible for the killing, although several witnesses had pointed to forces loyal to the Tigrayan leaders. Tigray’s leader Debretsion Gebremichael, who chairs the TPLF, said his troops had not been involved in the massacre. Hundreds were already feared dead amid heavy fighting and fighter jet airstrikes. Nearly 15,000 refugees have fled to Sudan since the fighting started, with the speed of new arrivals “overwhelming the current capacity to provide aid”, according to UNHCR. Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize-winning prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, ordered the army into Tigray last week after an alleged attack on a military base by the ruling Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). The TPLF is the ruling party in the semi-autonomous region of five million people which borders Eritrea and Sudan. The Tigrayan minority was the dominant force in government until Mr Abiy came into power in 2018 and has since complained of being persecuted. This week, the TPLF declared a state of emergency in the region against an “invasion by outsiders.” The federal government says it is trying to liberate the region from the TPLF, which it has accused of atrocities during the fighting. Concerns are growing that the conflict could turn the country’s large array of ethnic groups against one another. On Friday, reports emerged that Ethiopian police had visited an office of the U.N. World Food Programme to request a list of ethnic Tigrayan staff. The local police chief informed them of “the order of identifying ethnic Tigrayans from all government agencies and NGOs,” according to an internal UN report seen by Reuters.