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Eritrean troops killed hundreds of Ethiopian civilians in Axum — Amnesty

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Eritrean soldiers killed hundreds of civilians in Ethiopia’s ancient town of Axum between Nov. 28 and 29, rights group Amnesty International said on Friday, one of several mass killings reported during a conflict that erupted nearly four months ago in the northern region of Tigray.

“Over an approximately 24-hour period, on 28-29 November 2020, Eritrean troops operating in the Ethiopian city of Axum killed many hundreds of civilians,” Amnesty said, citing 41 witnesses.

The rights group said that the mass execution of civilians by Eritrean troops may amount to crimes against humanity.

The Ethiopian government’s emergency task force for the Tigray said on Thursday that investigations into violence in Axum were underway.

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The state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission released a statement timed to coincide with the Amnesty report, saying preliminary investigations indicated that Eritrean soldiers had killed an unknown number of civilians in Axum in retaliation for an earlier attack by soldiers of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the region’s ousted ruling party.

Eritrea’s foreign minister, Osman Saleh Mohammed, did not respond to requests for comment.

News of the mass killing took months to confirm; communications to Tigray were down for many weeks and media access has been tightly restricted, although that is now loosening slightly.

Both Ethiopia and Eritrea have previously denied that Eritrean troops were in Ethiopian territory. The TPLF and many residents say Eritrea intervened to support Ethiopian soldiers after the TPLF attacked government bases in the early hours of Nov. 4.

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Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed claimed victory on Nov. 28, the day that TPLF forces withdrew from Mekelle – and the day Amnesty says Eritreans were killing civilians in Axum.

The rights group said the killings were retaliation for an attack by local militia and that soldiers executed men and boys in the streets and engaged in extensive looting.

A Tigrayan man working in construction told Reuters that Eritrean soldiers shot dead six members of his family in Axum on Nov. 28, including his 17-year-old brother and 78-year-old father. Since phones were down, he found out more than a month later from residents who had buried them.

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“Everything our family had – all the happiness – has turned to darkness,” he said in an phone interview from the capital Addis Ababa this week.

Mulu Nega, head of Tigray’s government-appointed interim administration, told Reuters: “The police and the judiciary are investigating.”

Reuters could not reach people in Axum by phone. Communications to Tigray remain patchy, as does electricity.

Axum is a UNESCO World Heritage site, famed for its tall obelisks and ancient churches, including one reputed to house the Bible’s famed Ark of the Covenant.

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Ivory Coast police rescue 68 children working on cocoa farms

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FILE PHOTO: A farmer prepares to cut cocoa pods at a cocoa farm in Agboville, Ivory Coast April 24, 2017. REUTERS/LUC GNAGO

Police in Ivory Coast have rescued 68 children working on cocoa farms, most of whom were trafficked from neighbouring Burkina Faso, authorities said.

The West African country is the world’s top cocoa producer and has close to 1 million children working in the sector despite years of efforts to end child labour.

At a care centre in the southwestern region of Soubre, one of the rescued children told Reuters his father had brought him from Burkina Faso at the age of 13 to work on his uncle’s cocoa plantation and had left him there.

“I’ve been working in cocoa for two years, since I arrived in Ivory Coast,” said the shy Nounfo, who was found by the police splitting open cocoa pods with a machete.

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Police said Nounfo’s family links were not clear to the purported uncle who was among about 25 suspected traffickers arrested and now facing up to 10 years in prison.

The issue could weigh on exports to the European Union, which is considering new laws to ban the import of commodities linked to human rights abuses.

The operation involved around 100 police officers last Thursday and Friday and was the first since 2014 in Soubre, at the heart of the cocoa belt.

More action is hampered by a lack of funding, said Luc Zaka, a police commissioner in charge of the special unit on child labour.

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“We lack the means to be more efficient and to achieve the expected results, but each time we are in the field we manage to save children and arrest suspects,” he said.

Brahima Coulibaly, a member of the national monitoring committee on child labour, said authorities will conduct operations in another region in a few months.

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UGM: Governor imposes curfew from 7pm-6am in Rivers

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Nyesom Wike

Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, has imposed a new curfew aimed at curbing attacks on government forces by those described as “Unknown Gunmen (UGM).”

Seven policemen were killed last week Friday in a new attack by unidentified gunmen who had killed at least 12 government forces in attacks on police formations.

“As a further step towards enhancing our collective safety we have reviewed the existing night time curfew across the 23 Local Government Areas, which will now start from 7 p.m. and end at 6 a.m. until further notice from tomorrow 11th May 2021,” said Wike in a state-wide broadcast on Monday.

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The governor also ordered law enforcement agencies to deal decisively with any person or group who violates or attempts to violate the curfew.

Meanwhile, government forces blocked all roads leading to their facilities across the state, causing a traffic jam that left many people stranded and forced to walk a long distance before reaching their places of business and homes.

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ISIS imposes taxes, recruit children in northern Nigeria

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"The Islamic State is plundering parts of Nigeria now, they manage to impose the Islamic tax of Zakāt at least in some regions at this point"

Images, posted on social media on Saturday, show members of the Islamic State terrorist group collecting taxes and recruiting children in northern Nigeria.

Children are recruited by terrorists under the guise of a humanitarian gesture by distributing them each N500 (five hundred naira), as well as food, shows images posted on Twitter by Pieter Van Ostaeyen, a Belgium reporter, analyst and historian.

“The Islamic State is plundering parts of Nigeria now, they manage to impose the Islamic tax of Zakāt at least in some regions at this point,” Ostaeyan said in Saturday’s report, which confirmed reports that earlier claimed that ISIS had infiltrated Nigeria.

The United States, alongside others, had said that Islamic State was trying to infiltrate the oil-rich African country already being ravaged by Boko Haram, ISWAP and Fulani herders.

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