This is surely one of the most horrific acts of this horrific conflict.
Below is some of the information we have learnt so far: from Tigrayan and Ethiopian sources.
Ethiopian Security Forces Burn Tigrayans alive, talk about Cannibalism
A shocking video emerged on social media on 11th March 2022 showing Amharic-speaking Ethiopian security forces in uniforms burning Tigrayans alive, mocking them, and talking about how delicious their roasted flesh would be with injera or bread.
This gruesome recording shows security forces dragging a severely beaten man to a smoldering pyre. The victim seems to be stripped naked and one man is seen carrying a piece of his cloth on a stick, which he later throws into the fire. The partially burned bodies of other people are discernible in the fire. The soldier refers to them as “his” (the man who is being dragged to the fire) brothers. They then count until three and throw their victim onto the fire. They go on to add more dry grass and firewood to it and revel in the act of burning. They mock the victim and ask him to speak while he is burning.
They keep asking him “እውነቱን ተናገር” (tell the truth). He answers “What can I tell you?”. The victim makes a final appeal from the fire begging “Please, Please”. To which the attackers respond with taunts, humiliation, and encouragement to each other “burn him” (አቃጥለው), “roast him” (ቁለው) and other descriptions associated with cooking (አቁላላው). One of them makes a bizarre cannibalistic suggestion, saying that they ought to eat the burning flesh with injera, and another of the attackers replies saying it is probably best with bread.
The victim makes a few desperate attempts to move out of the fire. His killers push him back to the fire with sticks, and they add firewood and grass.
According to an analysis of this video with some translations, the uniforms reveal the presence of special forces from the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and People’s and Amhara regions as well as the Fano vigilante groups. Our sources in Gilgel Beles also informed told us that there are SNNP and Amhara ‘leyu” force operating in tandem in the area. But Ethiopian National Defence Force uniforms are also seen in the video. The use of “junta” in reference to the victim reveals that the victims are Tigrayans. (See below why they are Tigrayans).
The perpetrators used extremely abusive language “mother f*cker”; “This is your destiny – you are not yet annihilated”; “This is the price you have to pay”
An Amharic Youtube channel, Ethio 360 Media, in its Saturday, March 05, 2022, aired programming which may offer some context about this (starts from minute mark 10). Citing a truck driver (part of his interview is also partially aired in the program), Habtamu Ayalew of 360 Media says that on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, OLA and Benishangul Gumuz forces attacked a convoy of Ethiopian troops that was traveling from Gilgel Beles town to the GERD site. This attack was also confirmed in a BBC Amharic news piece citing an anonymous high-level official from the Benishangul Gumuz region.https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d2342999.358567573!2d35.234354894372295!3d11.420013768950087!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x165a6dbc48e085a1%3A0x5c35473338180f61!2sGilgelBeles%20Town!5e0!3m2!1sen!2snl!4v1647045541293!5m2!1sen!2snl
According to the Ethio 360 reporting which is more detailed than the one from BBC, following the attack, 12 Tigrayans were arrested in Dangur Woreda of Benishangul Gumuz.https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d780340.2862115607!2d35.60902028201137!3d11.32417315980386!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x165a21f508aab0fb%3A0x371842dd30aad959!2z4Yuz4YyJ4YitLCBFdGhpb3BpYQ!5e0!3m2!1sen!2snl!4v1647046303990!5m2!1sen!2snl
Then they were made to travel on a bus towards the site of the GERD. He doesn’t specify the date, but he makes it clear that it is after March 2, the day of the alleged attack. Habtamu says that the Tigrayans said [to their captors] that they were put by ENDF troops on board the bus bound to the GERD site. Habtamu says the Tigrayans were then shot dead in public in the town (not clear which town he meant). Habtamu remarks about a conspiracy in taking the civilian Tigrayans from prison and putting them on the bus and that no one knows who exactly did that.
Habtamu is an ardent Amhara nationalist and he never reveals information that can in anyway show Amhara forces and Fano in bad light. That explains a bit why Habtamu simply said they were executed in public without any details and why the part of the interview where the truck driver talks about the way the Tigrayans are killed was not aired.
Habtamu says the Tigrayans were arrested following the attack on the convey traveling to the Gerd site, but many other social media activists have said they were arrested earlier following the sweeping arrests following the declaration of state of emergency. Habtamu says the Tigrayans are 12, but the person who first released the video says his source told him they are 13.
The men in the video claim that this was a retaliation for the killing of their captain and tell their victim: “This is how you burned us yesterday”. This would suggest that the events in the video occurred on March 3, assuming the date of the attack is March 2. If this account from Ethio 360 Media and BBC is the context of the murders in the video, it seems that innocent Tigrayans were set up for retaliation.
Based on our sources in Gilgel Beles town, the BBC report, and the EThio 360 report, we have established the site of the attack to be in the blue line below and its date on 3 March 2022.https://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m24!1m12!1m3!1d334547.564156186!2d35.51439175134555!3d11.242519694573163!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!4m9!3e2!4m3!3m2!1d11.269989899999999!2d35.7294033!4m3!3m2!1d11.184405799999999!2d35.840448599999995!5e1!3m2!1sen!2snl!4v1647081315539!5m2!1sen!2snl
And the site of the massacre to be in Aysid, the area below. The government also confirms [archived] that the burning took place in Aysidhttps://www.google.com/maps/embed?pb=!1m18!1m12!1m3!1d147761.6196803421!2d35.58200612540214!3d11.284366903391492!2m3!1f0!2f0!3f0!3m2!1i1024!2i768!4f13.1!3m3!1m2!1s0x1659e99a42d6368f%3A0xab8424584531e6b3!2sAysid%2C%20Ethiopia!5e1!3m2!1sen!2snl!4v1647086432703!5m2!1sen!2snl
The Ethiopian Government, March 12 condemned the event and located it in Isid Kebele. https://www.facebook.com/FDRECommunicationService/posts/134660202407795
Extremism cannot bring peace or justice to the truth!!!.
Recently in Benishangul Gumuz region Metekel zone Guba woreda Isid Kebele a very cruel and inhuman act has been carried out. A very cruel act that has been circulating on social media has been seen causing innocent citizens to die by fire.
This act is a horrible crime that has disturbed us from Ethiopian culture, values and any kind of humanity. Unless this evil act speed up destruction, it can not bring peace or justice. Therefore, it should be condemned and condemned. Whatever their origin or identity, the government will take legal action on those who committed such acts which are far from humanity and cruelty.
In Benishangul Gumuz region, we are working together with the region and all the security agencies to control the illegalities seen in different areas and to prevent the damage on innocent citizens.
The government will no longer tolerate those who put innocent citizens at risk. Therefore, the government is strongly concerned that these people who are involved in crime and endanger the lives of citizens should be saved from their actions.
Government communication service
According to AFP the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission condemned the atrocity
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission issued a statement - but not in English.
Nairobi – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said on Sunday that government forces were responsible for burning a Tigrayan man to death, a barbaric act circulated in a... Read more
Nairobi – The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said on Sunday that government forces were responsible for burning a Tigrayan man to death, a barbaric act circulated in a widely-shared video that sparked outrage on social media.
Ethiopia’s government on Saturday vowed to investigate and take action against anyone involved in “the extremely savage act” depicted in the video, which shows an unarmed man being set on fire as a group of people, including some wearing army uniforms, taunt him.
On Sunday, the EHRC said the victim was a Tigrayan man who was “burnt alive… with the participation of government security forces and other people”.
The atrocity occurred on March 3 in the northwestern region of Benishangul Gumuz, which borders Sudan and South Sudan. It followed an attack a day earlier that left at least 20 people dead, the state-affiliated independent rights body said.
Security officials later captured and shot dead eight Tigrayans suspected of involvement in that assault, it added.
“The bodies of the deceased were taken by security forces to a nearby forest and burned,” the EHRC said in a statement, citing eyewitness testimony.
“In between this, an ethnic Tigrayan who was suspected of having contact with the deceased, was arrested… and thrown (on the pyre) with the deceased, with him dying of fire burns,” the EHRC quoted eyewitnesses as saying.
“Those who were in the area were Ethiopian army soldiers, Amhara region special police forces and Southern region police forces,” the rights body said, calling for a criminal investigation.
The video could not be independently verified by AFP and it was not immediately clear if the atrocity was connected to the ongoing 16-month war in northern Ethiopia.
The conflict between government forces and Tigrayan rebels in Africa’s second most populous country has killed thousands of people. There are widespread reports of atrocities, including mass killings and sexual violence.
The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which has allied with the Tigrayan rebels, accused Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and his Prosperity Party of encouraging the “Stone Age savagery” on display in the video.
“The atrocious act we are subjected to stems directly from the wicked rhetoric” deployed by Abiy’s party and its allies, the OLA said in a statement released Saturday.
According to the UN, the fighting has displaced more than two million people, driven hundreds of thousands to the brink of starvation and left more than nine million in need of assistance.
Earlier this month, the UN Human Rights Council announced that Fatou Bensouda, a former chief prosecutor at the International Criminal Court (ICC), would head a UN investigation into a wide range of alleged violations committed by all sides in the war.