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Muluberhan Mekonnen, a 25-year-old Tigrayan student and bartender in Addis Ababa. Because of his ethnicity and the war in Tigray, he often receives insults in Addis Ababa, so he tries to avoid public places.

Samuel Getachew/The Globe and Mail

Every hour, Muluberhan Mekonnen tries to call his mother in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where war is raging and refugees are fleeing.

He never reaches her. The phone lines are dead.

His pain is just another small wound in a country where the wounds are multiplying. With fresh reports of atrocities and bombing attacks emerging this week, Ethiopians are struggling to assess the damage to their increasingly divided country.

Story continues below advertisement

“I feel devastated and lost, and I’m not sure if my mother and my siblings are dead or alive,” says Mr. Mekonnen, a 25-year-old student and bartender in the capital, Addis Ababa. “I have a hard time sleeping at night and I barely function in the daytime.”

After 10 days of fighting between the federal army and regional forces in Tigray, more than 14,500 refugees have fled to neighbouring Sudan, overwhelming the capacity of a transit centre at the border, the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said on Friday.

“Arriving children are exhausted and scared,” the agency said. “Conditions inside Tigray are becoming more difficult, with power outages and food and fuel supplies becoming extremely scarce.”

UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet warned that a newly reported massacre of as many as 500 civilians in Tigray could constitute a war crime. “There is a risk this situation will spiral totally out of control, leading to heavy casualties and destruction, as well as mass displacement,” she said in a statement on Friday.

Fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region

An escalating conflict in northern Ethiopia be-

tween federal troops and forces loyal to the

Tigray regional government is raising fearsof

civil war in Africa’s second most populous

country.

Tigray region: Deadly fighting

forcing thousands of Ethiopians

to flee across border to Sudan

ERITREA

SUDAN

Humera

Mekele

Dansha

Gondar

Lake

Tana

AFAR

DJIBOUTI

AMHARA

ETHIOPIA

Recent

military

action

OROMIA

0

200

Addis Ababa

KM

the globe and mail, source: graphic news; United

Nations Office for the Coordination of

Humanitarian Affairs

Fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region

An escalating conflict in northern Ethiopia between federal

troops and forces loyal to the Tigray regional government

is raising fearsof civil war in Africa’s second most

populous country.

Tigray region: Deadly fighting

forcing thousands of Ethiopians

to flee across border to Sudan

ERITREA

SUDAN

Humera

Mekele

Dansha

Gondar

Lake

Tana

AFAR

DJIBOUTI

AMHARA

ETHIOPIA

Recent

military

action

OROMIA

0

200

Addis Ababa

KM

the globe and mail, source: graphic news; United

Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian

Affairs

Fighting in Ethiopia’s Tigray region

An escalating conflict in northern Ethiopia between federal troops and forces loyal to theTigray

regional government is raising fears of civil war in Africa’s second most populous country.

Tigray region: Deadly fighting

forcing thousands of Ethiopians

to flee across border to Sudan

ERITREA

SUDAN

Humera

Mekele

Dansha

Gondar

Lake

Tana

AFAR

DJIBOUTI

AMHARA

ETHIOPIA

Recent

military

action

OROMIA

0

200

Addis Ababa

KM

the globe and mail, source: graphic news; United Nations Office for

the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs

The UN Office on Genocide Prevention, in a separate statement, said the growing reports of ethnically motivated attacks and ethnic profiling of citizens in Ethiopia “constitute a dangerous trajectory that heightens the risk of genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”

Amnesty International said it has confirmed that scores, and probably hundreds, of civilians were stabbed or hacked to death this week in the town of Mai-Kadra in western Tigray. The victims were day labourers who had no connection to the government’s military offensive, Amnesty said. A separate report in Ethiopia estimated that 500 were dead in the massacre.

Amnesty said it had digitally verified photos and videos of bodies strewn across the town. It quoted witnesses saying the victims were attacked with machetes, axes and knives.

Story continues below advertisement

While the human-rights group said it has not yet confirmed who perpetrated the mass killings, it cited three witnesses who identified the attackers as forces loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, apparently in retaliation for a defeat inflicted by federal soldiers.

Both sides have been implicated in the deaths of civilians in the 10-day-old war. Refugees have reportedly described how government jets have demolished buildings and killed civilians, despite official claims that the planes are attacking only weapons depots.

There are mounting reports that Tigrayans in other parts of Ethiopia are being questioned, threatened or suspended from their jobs. Police in one region, Amhara, visited an office of the UN’s World Food Program and demanded a list of its Tigrayan staff, according to one report. The local police chief reportedly told the UN that he had been ordered to identify Tigrayans at all government and independent agencies.

The African Union, meanwhile, fired a Tigrayan as its head of security after the Ethiopian government complained that he was disloyal. The AU has its headquarters in Addis Ababa.

Human Rights Watch, in a report on Friday, said it had received credible reports of Tigrayans being suspended from their jobs and prevented from boarding airplanes to leave the country.

“There are concerns that the federal government’s accusations and current actions in Tigray may increase the discrimination, hostility or violence toward ordinary Tigrayans,” the rights group said.

Story continues below advertisement

Mr. Mekonnen, a Tigrayan, said he has been the target of insults, accusations and verbal abuse from strangers in the streets since the outbreak of the war, forcing him to avoid public places for fear of worse.

“I feel stateless,” he told The Globe and Mail. “I am no longer an individual – I am an ethnic group to the authorities. I am accused of many things, simply because I am a Tigrayan.”

For many Ethiopians, even far from the war zone, the military conflict in Tigray is causing traumatic new stresses and pressures.

Alemitu Alemu Gobena, a 68-year-old woman in Addis Ababa, is worried about her son, a federal soldier who is stationed in Tigray, where all internet and phone links have been cut off.

Alemitu Alemu Gobena, a 68-year-old woman in Addis Ababa, worries about her son, a soldier in Ethiopia's army, who is stationed in the war-torn Tigray region.

Samuel Getachew/The Globe and Mail

“It has been a slow death for me,” she says. “Every knock on the door I feel is someone coming to tell me about his death. I would never have guessed that Ethiopia would come to this. For a long time, I had assumed that war was a thing of the past.”

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