Ethiopian forces shelled heavily populated areas in the first weeks of the conflict in the Tigray region, killing at least 83 civilians and displacing thousands, Human Rights Watch said Thursday.
Artillery attacks by forces backing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, “struck homes, hospitals, schools and markets”, according to the report, which focuses on the regional capital Mekele and the towns of Shire and Humera.
“At the war’s start, Ethiopian federal forces fired artillery into Tigray’s urban areas in an apparently indiscriminate manner that was bound to cause civilian casualties and property damage,” said Laetitia Bader, HRW’s Horn of Africa director.
The report calls for a UN investigation of possible laws of war violations.
Abiy announced military operations against the leadership of Tigray’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), in early November, saying this was in response to TPLF-orchestrated attacks on federal army camps.
He declared victory after pro-government troops took Mekele in late November, though the TPLF vowed to fight on, and aid workers say persistent insecurity has hampered the delivery of badly-needed humanitarian assistance.
Abiy has previously said the military acted with special care for civilian lives, telling lawmakers in late November that no civilians were killed as his forces entered Tigray’s cities.
His office did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
– ‘We were at a loss’ –
In the western town of Humera, doctors reported that at least 46 people were killed and 200 injured on a single day during the first week of fighting, HRW said, adding that “total casualties that day were most likely higher”.
“Civilians started arriving in the hospital with injuries to the abdomen, chest, head. We were at a loss,” HRW quoted a doctor as saying. “People with no hands, people with their stomachs hanging out.”
A doctor at a hospital in Mekele has previously told AFP that 27 civilians were killed in “artillery and rocket shelling” on November 28, the day federal forces arrived, and that more than 100 were wounded.
“Many of the artillery attacks did not appear aimed at specific military targets but struck generalized populated areas,” HRW said.
Much of Tigray remains inaccessible to aid workers and the media, making it difficult to get a full picture of the toll of the fighting and current conditions on the ground.
Ethiopia “should promptly allow UN investigators into Tigray to document the conduct by warring parties in a conflict that has devastated the lives of millions and should no longer be ignored,” Bader said.
Nigeria: Arrested civilian not Ikonso’s deputy or an ESN agent — Kanu
UMUAHIA — Nnamdi Kanu, a rights activist and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, refuted the Nigerian army’s claim that it had caught the deputy of the late ESN chief of defense, Ikonso.
The army said in a statement on Wednesday from the director of public relations, Brigadier General Mohammed Yerima, that military intelligence had followed and caught Awurum Eze, 48, in Aba, Abia state.
The military also claimed that Mr Eze was the main sponsor of attacks on members of government forces in Imo State.
But in a statement Thursday, Kanu called the military’s allegation laughable, adding that the arrested civilian is not a member of the ESN and is not Ikonso’s deputy.
“Abduction of weak and innocent people in Biafra land is gaining momentum in the hands of the so called security agents (TERRORISTS IN UNIFORMS),” Kanu said in a statement posted on his Facebook page.
The rights activist added: “Has anybody heard of ESN headquarters anywhere in Biafraland outside in our forests?, please let the world now.
“It is said that Mr Eze the second commander of ESN in Imo state was arrested by Nigerian joint security forces at ESN headquarters… maybe in IKONSO HOUSE in IMO STATE, like always they kept on trying everything within their reach to mislead the citizens, but NEVER BIAFRANS.
“M Branch knows where their torture chambers are in the capital city of Owerri. Very soon they will receive the appropriate results.”
The Eastern Security Network (ESN) is a local vigilance group created by the leader of IPOB in December 2020, to fight crimes and killings committed by Fulani herders and jihadists in the eastern region of the country.
43 civilians ‘secretly abducted’ by soldiers in eastern Nigeria in one week
At least 43 civilians were abducted by Nigerian soldiers in a week in the east of the country, a military source revealed on Wednesday.
Among those believed to have been secretly abducted, are 15 women, who were airlifted alongside 28 men from the PortHarcourt Bori camp to an undisclosed detention center in Niger state.
“They were abducted from different places in the south-east and here in Rivers State in just one week, and brought to our Barack here in PortHarcourt,” said the source, who noted that the abduction was committed during the underway military assault after a series of attacks on government forces facilities and officers by unidentified armed men.
He disclosed that the army airlifted the victims to Niger State in Northern region of the country on Wednesday, but said no specific detention centers where they would be held.
The Nigerian military had deployed troops to the southeast and south-south of the country, following a series of attacks on police formations and government forces by unidentified gunmen.
The federal government accused the separatist group – Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) of being responsible for the attacks, but the group and some leaders in the region refuted the claim, saying that the separatist group is nonviolent and could not carry out such attacks.
Meanwhile, at least 5 civilians were killed by soldiers in Imo State last week by soldiers deployed after an attack on a prison by unidentified gunmen who freed prisons and attacked police facilities.
1,370 Christians massacred in Nigeria by jihadists in four months
No fewer than 1,370 Christians were killed in Nigeria between January and April 2021, a civil rights group, International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety), disclosed.
Of the estimated 3,500 people kidnapped in the country, 2,500 are Christians, the rights group said, adding that “the 1, 370 Christian deaths in four months is the highest number recorded since 2014 and it specifically surpassed the total number of Christians killed in the whole of 2019, estimated by the Open Doors to be 1,350.”
Open Doors, in a World Watch List report on Christians, revealed that “3,530 Christians were killed in Nigeria between November 2019 and October 2020” in attacks by Fulani herders, Boko Haram, Fulani jihadist terrorists called “bandits”, and other jihadists seeking to turn the country into an Islamic caliphate.
“The latest research investigation conducted by Intersociety took weeks and cut across all the troubling Christian areas of the country with Kaduna recording the highest number of 300 Christian deaths out of estimated total of 430 killings, followed by Benue with 200 Christian deaths, Plateau 90 Christian deaths, Igbo Land States of Ebonyi, Enugu and Anambra, etc 80 Christian deaths, Christian part of Niger States (i.e. Shiroro, Munya and Rafi, etc) 70 deaths, Taraba/Adamawa 65 deaths, Ogun/Ondo 52 Christian deaths, Kebbi 50 Christian deaths (out of over 60 killed), Borno 50 Christian deaths (out of over 110 killed), Nasarawa 30 Christian deaths, Igbo part of Delta 20 Christian deaths, Edo 20 Christian deaths, non Igbo part of Delta 10 Christian deaths, Oyo/Ekiti/Osun 30 Christian deaths, Gombe 20 Christian deaths, Christian part of Geidam in Yobe State 15 deaths (out of total killings) and Kogi State 10 Christian deaths. Nine Igbo Christians were also killed in Kibiya District of Kano State. There are also likely dozens of other Christian deaths or ‘dark figures’ not captured or recorded. The Nigerian Army also accounted for killing of at least 120 Benue, Akwa Ibom, Anambra, Imo, Abia and Ebonyi defenseless Christians,” said Intersociety in a statement signed by its principal officers, Emeka Umeagbalasi, Chidimma Udegbunam, Esq., Obianuju Igboeli, Esq., and Ndidiamaka Bernard.
“The research investigation further projected from interviews and open source reports that 250 Christians are most likely to have died or been killed in captivity of their abductors. This represents 10% of 2,500 abducted Christians across the country especially Christian travelers and rural others among them are male and young female farmers including those abducted and raped to death or killed after being raped. The totality of the above brings the number of defenseless Christians killed in Nigeria from Jan to April 2021 to 1,370; out of which Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen accounted for more than 800 Christians. Killings by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen are concentrated in Southern Kaduna (jointly perpetrated with Fulani Bandits), Plateau, Benue, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Delta, Edo, Southwest States, Kogi and Nasarawa. Killings by Boko Haram and Fulani Bandits are majorly witnessed in Borno, Taraba, Adamawa, Yobe, Kebbi, Gombe, Niger and FCT. Killings by ISWAP and Ansaru are concentrated in Borno, Adamawa and Taraba States.
“In the area of the 2500 abducted Christians, the breakdown indicates that Kaduna recorded the highest number with 800 abductions out of estimated total of 1,100 abductions. Out of the 800 abducted Christians in the State, indigenous Christians of the State accounted for 600 including those abducted in Muslim held areas of Birnin-Gwari, Igabi and Giwa Local Government Areas. The abducted Christian travelers who are not indigenes of the State also accounted for about 200 and among them are dozens of Igbo Christians resident in Northern Nigeria especially those traveling from the North to the South or Niger State and the FCT. Niger State, on its own part, recorded the second largest Christian abductees with 300 out of total of 450-500 abductions; followed by Adamawa/Taraba with 100 abductees, Borno with 50 abductees (out of not less than 130 abducted), Nasarawa with 40 abductees, Oyo/Ekiti/Osun with 40 abductees, FCT 30 abductees, Kogi 20 abductees, Ogun/Ondo 15 abductees and at least 205 others abducted by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen in Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo, Abia, Benue, Plateau, Kebbi, Yobe, Delta, Edo, etc. Added were 500 abducted Southeast indigenous Judeo-Christians secretly being held without trial since January 2021 by Nigerian Army, SSS, Police and Navy.”
The civil rights group, disclosed that “apart from killings, maiming and abductions by the named Jihadist groups, Governments and local institutions in the Muslim controlled Northern States are also making life very unbearable for their indigenous Christian communities. These include Katsina State where under-age Christian girls are forcefully married to Muslim men and converted to Islam.”
In attempts by the Nigerian government led by Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani Muslim, to cover up the massacre, he falsely referred to them as ‘herders-farmers clashes’, or attacks by “bandits”, or ‘killings that cut across Muslims and Christians”, etc.
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