Eritrean troops systematically killed hundreds of unarmed civilians in Ethiopia's Tigray region, Amnesty International says.
The worst of the fighting took place in the northern city of Axum on November 28-29, with soldiers opening fire in the streets and conducting house-to-house raids in "a massacre that may amount to a crime against humanity," Amnesty said in a new report on Friday.
Forty-one survivors and witnesses and 20 others with knowledge of the events told the researchers of extrajudicial executions, indiscriminate shelling and widespread looting after Ethiopian and Eritrean troops led an offensive and took control of the city on November 19.
Satellite image analysis has corroborated the reports and shown mass burial sites, according to Amnesty.
"Ethiopian and Eritrean troops carried out multiple war crimes ... Eritrean troops went on a rampage and systematically killed hundreds of civilians in cold blood," said Amnesty director for East and Southern Africa Deprose Muchena.
The "Amnesty findings should be taken very seriously," Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) chief commissioner Daniel Bekele said in response to the report.
While the EHRC had not yet finalised its investigation, its preliminary findings also indicate the killing of an unknown number of civilians by Eritrean soldiers in Axum, Bekele said in a statement.
The killings were done in retaliation for an earlier attack by TPLF soldiers who were joined by a small number of local residents, and were carried out by Eritrean soldiers after the TPLF soldiers left the area, according to Bekele.
The commission is also investigating allegations of shelling in multiple places across Tigray region, Bekele said.
Earlier this week, the foundation of South African Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu warned the people in Tigray region are facing "genocide."
Ethiopia launched a military offensive in Tigray in November to diminish the power of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which rules the region and has been critical of the government.
It remains unclear why Eritrean forces might have fought alongside Ethiopia's army in the Tigray conflict, but there has been long-standing animosity between the TPLF and Eritrea since a 1998-2000 border war.
Eritrea denies its involvement in the Tigray conflict.
Australian Associated Press