Amnesty International says at least three civilians have been killed by Eritrean soldiers in Ethiopia’s conflict-hit northern Tigray region.
The UK-based rights group reported the incident and the casualties in a statement on Wednesday, saying that the “unlawful” attack on “civilians” — in which 19 more people were also wounded — occurred in the center of Adwa Town in Tigray early on Monday.
The deadly incident took place more than two weeks after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Eritrea had agreed to withdraw the forces it had sent into the Tigray region during the conflict, which erupted back in November last year.
Addis Ababa and Asmara had long denied that Eritreans were active in Tigray, contradicting testimony from residents, rights groups, aid workers, diplomats, and even some Ethiopian civilian and military officials.
Ethiopia only recently acknowledged their presence and said they had agreed to leave Ethiopian soil.
However, residents from Tigray reported that occupying Eritrean troops were still present in a number of cities and towns.
Ethiopian forces have been fighting militia loyal to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) forces since November last year. The Ethiopian troops were sent to the region to detain and disarm leaders of the TPLF, which was once the dominant regional governing party, in retaliation to alleged attacks on the Ethiopian military.
“Deliberate attacks on civilians are prohibited by international humanitarian law and must stop,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty’s deputy regional director for East Africa, the Horn, and the Great Lakes.
“We are calling for an international investigation into this and other incidents and allegations of human rights violations, including war crimes and possible crimes against humanity, committed in the ongoing conflict in Tigray,” she added.
Following the deadly attack on Monday, international medical charity Doctors without Borders (MSF) quoted injured patients in Adwa as saying that troops had opened fire on people in the vicinity of a bus station. It added that the wounded had been transported to MSF-supported facilities for treatment.
“There must be justice and accountability for war crimes and human rights violations in Tigray. This attack and other allegations of violations must be independently and impartially investigated by an international inquiry,” Jackson further said.
The ongoing conflict between Ethiopian troops and the pro-TPLF forces has left thousands of people dead and forced hundreds of thousands from their homes in the mountainous region.
Before the conflict in Tigray, the region was home to around 5.5 million people, according to the United Nations (UN) estimates. Since then, many people have fled due to violence and sought refuge in neighboring Sudan.