Tigray: hundreds of inmates released following CNN report


Speaking to CNN on condition of anonymity, out of fear for their safety, the sources said the soldiers had released almost a “handful” of men, who were detained on Monday by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces operating in the region. .

A CNN report released Thursday revealed that hundreds of men were arrested in Shire, a town in Tigray, on Monday this week. Witnesses described, on condition of anonymity, how Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers beat and harassed the men. They also said the soldiers broke into at least two shelters for those displaced by the conflict, including an abandoned school, before shouting, “We’ll see if America saves you now!”

An aid worker told CNN that soldiers accused the detainees of being members of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the rebel group leading the resistance against Ethiopian government forces and their allies.

“The soldiers kept telling us that they were doing this because these men were TPLF, but the raid was indiscriminate. How did you know who was TPLF and who was not?” said the aid worker.

The Tigrayans said, 'We'll see if America will save you now.'  hundreds of Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers

A released detainee described the physical abuse inflicted by Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers while in detention.

“They take us out one by one and torture us,” the man said. “This is the third time that I have been beaten by soldiers like this. People here start running and are afraid every time they see someone in military uniform. The world must hear our screams and do something – we live in terror “

Witnesses and aid workers credit media reports and the international outcry for the men’s release that followed.

“The fact that CNN reported on this, the UN and then the senator [Coons] spoke about it, it made it clear to them that they were being watched, ”he said, referring to US Senator Chris Coons, who visited Ethiopia in March as an envoy. staff of President Joe Biden.

CNN shared its report with Coons on Thursday. The senator then raised the issue during a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Ethiopia, calling for “accountability” for the mass detention.

A crowd is seen outside the Guna distribution center on the outskirts of Shire, Ethiopia, in this satellite image captured on May 27.  Detainees say they were beaten and tortured in the facility.

Babar Baloch, a spokesperson for UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, told reporters in Geneva on Friday that authorities said more detainees would be released in the coming days, saying the agency for refugees refugees was “deeply alarmed” by reports of these detentions. The UN said it was unable to independently verify this claim.

“As the mandated agency responsible for the protection of internally displaced persons, UNHCR was in immediate contact with the Ethiopian authorities, and we continue to raise urgent concerns for the safety of those expelled from the camp with authorities, ”Baloch said.

Baloch called on all parties to the conflict to ensure that displaced civilians in shelters remain protected there.

How it went

Four military vehicles initially surrounded the IDP camps of Adi Wenfito and Tsehay, witnesses said, before soldiers began rounding up the young men, forcing them onto buses and leading them to a place supposed to be on the outskirts of Shire. The soldiers broke into an abandoned school housing the refugees. This is where witnesses said they shouted, “We’ll see if America will save you now!”

Massacre in the mountains

“They forced the door, the men didn’t even have a chance to put their shoes on. The soldiers had their weapons locked, [ready to shoot]Said a witness.

A woman said two of her sons – aged 19 and 24 – were dragged out of their home around 9:30 p.m. that evening.

“They didn’t say why they were taking them, they just rounded them up, beat them and took them away,” she told CNN, adding that she was too afraid of what would be done to her sons to pose. Questions.

Several of the arrested men were released late Tuesday afternoon after identifying themselves as aid workers. They told CNN that hundreds of young men were still being held at the Guna Distribution Center, an aid and food storage facility that has now been converted into a military camp.

One man described hours of beatings by Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers.

“A lot of us are young, but there are people out there who are much older who will not be able to take the beatings anymore,” he said.

This screenshot from video obtained by CNN shows relatives of detainees waiting at a UNHCR compound for news of their family members.

Eritrean Information Minister Yemane Ghebremeskel has denied the reports and dismissed previous CNN reports, saying: “How long are you going to continue to take all ‘witness statements’ to the letter. . We have heard so many wrong and wrong stories. ”

President Biden said in a statement last Wednesday that he was “deeply concerned about the escalation of violence” in Ethiopia and condemned “the large-scale human rights violations in Tigray”.

Robert Godec, acting deputy secretary of the Bureau of African Affairs, said Thursday that if the conflict does not “turn the tide,” Ethiopia and Eritrea should anticipate “further action” from the United States.

“It cannot be business as usual in the face of violence and atrocities in Tigray,” Godec said during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing.

The conflict in Tigray has now raged for more than 200 days, pitting the TPLF against the Ethiopian National Defense Forces, Eritrean soldiers and the Amhara ethnic militia. Since the conflict began last year, civilians have been targeted by Ethiopian government forces and Eritrean allied forces and militias.

This story follows an investigation by Nima Elbagir, Barbara Arvanitidis, Katie Polglase, Gianluca Mezzofiore, Bethlehem Feleke and Eliza Mackintosh.

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