Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
Just$1.99
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to globeandmail.com
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
Just $1.99 per week for the first 24 weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(select.open)}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](select.open),dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

Members of the Amhara region militia rides to face the Tigray People's Liberation Front in Sanja, Ethiopia, on Nov. 9, 2020.

TIKSA NEGERI/Reuters

Ethiopia’s military has defeated local forces in the west of Tigray state, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Thursday, accusing his foes of atrocities during a week of fighting that threatens to destabilize the Horn of Africa.

Rights group Amnesty International said scores and possibly hundreds of civilians were stabbed and hacked to death in the region on Nov. 9, citing witnesses. It said it had not been able to independently confirm who was responsible, but said the witnesses had blamed fighters loyal to Tigray’s local leaders.

Air strikes and ground combat between government forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) have killed hundreds, sent refugees flooding into Sudan, stirred Ethiopia’s ethnic divisions and raised questions over the credentials of Mr. Abiy, Africa’s youngest leader who won a Nobel Peace Prize in 2019.

Story continues below advertisement

“The western region of Tigray has been liberated,” Mr. Abiy said in a tweet. The 44-year-old leader comes from the largest ethnic group the Oromo and once fought with the Tigrayans against neighbouring Eritrea.

With communications down and media barred, independent verification of the status of the conflict was impossible. Reuters was not able to confirm either side’s version of events or Amnesty’s reports of atrocities.

There are fears the conflict may draw in Eritrea, whose government signed a peace pact with Mr. Abiy two years ago but remains hostile to the Tigrayan leadership, and weaken Ethiopia’s role in an African Union (AU) force opposing Islamist militants in Somalia.

Major conflict could also hinder foreign investment in Ethiopia’s economy, which had clocked nearly double-digit annual growth for years before the coronavirus hit and is liberalizing, with multinationals particularly eyeing the telecoms sector.

‘GAPING WOUNDS’

Amnesty said that the people killed in the town of Mai Kadra in Tigray’s southwest on the night of Nov. 9 appeared to have been day labourers who were not involved in the fighting. It cited witnesses describing bodies with gaping wounds that appeared to have been inflicted with knives or machetes.

“This is a horrific tragedy,” it said in a statement.

“Amnesty International has not yet been able to confirm who was responsible … but has spoken to witnesses who said forces loyal to the TPLF were responsible for the mass killings, apparently after they suffered defeat from the federal EDF forces,” it said.

Story continues below advertisement

Tigray’s leader Debretsion Gebremichael, who chairs the TPLF, denied his forces were involved.

“This is unbelievable … this should be investigated,” Mr. Debretsion said in a text message to Reuters, accusing Mr. Abiy of “creating facts on ground.”

There was no immediate response to the Amnesty report from the Ethiopian government.

REFUGEES FLEE

The TPLF, which rules the mountainous northern state of more than five million people, announced a state of emergency against what it termed an “invasion.”

Mr. Abiy accuses the TPLF of starting the conflict by attacking a federal military base and defying his authority. The Tigrayans say they have been persecuted during his two-year rule.

Mr. Abiy said some of his soldiers had been found dead in the town of Sheraro, shot with their legs and arms tied behind their back. “This kind of cruelty is heartbreaking,” he said.

Story continues below advertisement

He did not say how many bodies were found or provide proof. Reuters could not verify his allegation and there was no immediate response from the TPLF.

More than 11,000 Ethiopian refugees have crossed into Sudan since fighting started and aid agencies say the situation in Tigray is becoming dire. Even before the conflict, 600,000 people there were reliant on food aid.

The UN refugee agency’s representative in Ethiopia, Ann Encontre, told Reuters negotiations were under way with both sides for humanitarian corridors.

A “major emergency” may be brewing with so many people escaping to Sudan, she warned. Half of the refugees were children and some were wounded.

After taking office in 2018, Mr. Abiy was applauded for opening up a repressive political system, including freeing activists from jail and lifting bans on opposition political parties. He won his Nobel prize for the peace accord with Eritrea.

But his democratic transition was already waning even before the push on Tigray, experts say, including jailing a prominent opposition member and restricting media.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Abiy has so far resisted calls by the United Nations, the African Union and others for a ceasefire and talks.

The army said transitional rule would be set up in parts of Tigray and urged local forces to surrender.

In a wider push against the TPLF, Ethiopia’s parliament stripped 39 members, including Mr. Debretsion, of immunity from prosecution.

Police said they had arrested 242 TPLF activists suspected of plotting attacks in Addis Ababa. Weapons including bombs and bullets were also confiscated, the city’s police chief said.

Also in the capital, volunteers lined up at a stadium to donate blood for injured armed forces members. Some waved the Ethiopian national flag.

Our Morning Update and Evening Update newsletters are written by Globe editors, giving you a concise summary of the day’s most important headlines. Sign up today.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow topics related to this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

If you do not see your comment posted immediately, it is being reviewed by the moderation team and may appear shortly, generally within an hour.

We aim to have all comments reviewed in a timely manner.

Comments that violate our community guidelines will not be posted.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies