International media stations have traced video footage of uniformed soldiers, allegedly Ethiopian federal troops, executing civilians in cold blood, as having been recorded near the town of Mahbere Dego in the Tigray region.
Tigrai Media House, which describes itself as “a pro-Tigray subscription satellite TV and YouTube channel based in the United States” says it posted the footage in early March. It was reportedly circulated widely on social media, while mainstream media outlets investigated its authenticity.
The media house says one of its journalists, Stalin Gebreselassie, was sent the footage, filmed on a mobile phone by an “Ethiopian army soldier turned whistleblower”, via a source in Tigray.
In reports published in the past two days, the BBC, CNN, the investigative journalism group, Bellingcat, and the U.S.-based Newsy site, have published the results of their investigations, which conclude that:
- The soldiers seen shooting men dressed in civilian clothes wore uniforms and badges matching those of the Ethiopian federal army, the ENDF;
- The soldiers were speaking Amharic and the victims the language of the Tigray region;
- The soldiers claimed the victims were members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which has been fighting federal troops since last November;
- One soldier invited the person filming the incident invited him to come closer, indicating no sense that the incident needed to be covered up;
- The shootings occurred at the top of a slope, down which the bodies rolled;
- If victims were thought still to be alive, they were shot again; and
- Using Google Earth and geo-location techniques, the investigations matched the physical features seen in the footage to an area near Mahbere Dego.
The BBC reported that residents in the area had told them Ethiopian troops took away 73 men on January 15, and none had been heard from since. CNN reported counting 34 men in the footage it reviewed. One man from a village near Mahbere Dego told the BBC his brother had been one of those killed. The BBC also said satellite imagery dated January 20 showed “a heavy military presence” near the site of the killings.
The official Ethiopian Human Rights Commission based in Addis Ababa – which has already confirmed reports of a massacre in the holy city of Axum – announced on March 25 that it had agreed with the UN rights agency, UN Human Rights, to carry out a joint investigation into “the human rights violations and abuses allegedly committed by all parties” in the Tigray conflict,