Violence Persists in Ethiopia’s Tigray Amid Reports of Hundreds Killed Last Year in City Said to Be Home to Ark of the Covenant

The armed standoff between the Ethiopian federal government and militants from the country’s Tigray region has already claimed thousands of lives and forced almost a million people to flee their homes.

In November 2020, Eritrean troops possibly killed hundreds of civilians in the northern Ethiopian town of Axum, which may amount to crime against humanity, Amnesty International claimed in a report released on Friday.

Violence in the area has been raging since 4 November, after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered a military offensive against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a popular guerrilla organisation in the Tigray region.

According to the Amnesty report, the rights watchdog spoke to 41 survivors and witnesses of the atrocities, which the watchdog claims took place on 28-29 November. The report also argued that the killings were corroborated by a spate of satellite images identifying signs of new mass burials near two of the Axum’s churches.

The ancient town of Axum is reportedly home to the Ark of the Covenant. The Bible describes the ark as a gilded chest that contains stone tablets with the Ten Commandments. The chest, which is topped with two golden figurines of angels, was carried using poles inserted through rings on its sides. The ark is believed to have been in an Axum church since the 1960s.

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