Speed Reads


Witnesses say hundreds of Tigrayan civilians were massacred in the days before peace deal

In late October, while a peace deal was being worked out in Egypt's northern Tigray region, Eritrean soldiers massacred more than 300 villagers in Tigray, witnesses and relatives of the victims told The Washington Post.

The war between the Ethiopian government and rebels from Tigray began in November 2020, when Tigrayan fighters seized multiple federal military bases. Thousands of people died before the cease-fire was announced on Nov. 2, and millions had been displaced from their homes.

The witnesses and relatives say that on Oct. 25, Eritrean forces allied with the Ethiopian troops began massacring people in at least 10 villages east of the town of Adwa. The soldiers were angry about losing a battle, the survivors told the Post, and the killings went on for a week. These massacres have not been reported on outside of Tigray, and the survivors waited to share their stories until Eritrean troops began to retreat from Tigray in late January.

The dead include children, elderly priests, and entire families. Among those killed were 92-year-old Gebremariam Niguse, his son, two daughters, a son-in-law, a daughter-in-law, and a 15-year-old granddaughter, Niguse's family said. Eritrean troops entered their village, Mariam Shewito, after Tigrayan forces left the area. The daughter-in-law was shot in front of her five children, the oldest one just 10, relatives told the Post, and the siblings, too scared to leave, spent the night by the bodies of their parents.

Survivors said at least 140 people were killed in Mariam Shewito over the course of three days, with the soldiers going from house to house shooting people and looting items. Satellite images from Planet Labs reviewed by the Post show at least 67 structures severely damaged during the time period witnesses said the massacre took place, while images from Maxar Technologies show what three experts say are military vehicles less than three miles from Mariam Shewito.

The United Nations International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia and other human rights groups have documented atrocities committed during the war by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers and Tigrayan forces, including mass killings of civilians, gang rape, and sexual slavery. One of the women who spoke with the Post said she was willing to talk about the loss of seven of her relatives in a massacre because "we want the world to hear what happened. We want people to know what happened to our families."