Disclaimer: This is an English translation of an Amharic report taken from BBC Amharic and is intended solely for information purposes.
BBC Amharic - More than 50 people were killed in Merawi town of Amhara Region according to eyewitnesses
February 2, 2024
On Monday, January 29, 2024 GC (Tir 20, 2016 EC) an attack left more than 50 people killed in Merawi town of the newly formed North Gojjam Zone of Amhara Region according to family members, residents and eyewitnesses who spoke to BBC.
In Merawi town located approximately 35-km from the regional capital of Bahir Dar, fighting between ENDF and Fano militants was followed by an attack on residents which left many people killed according to residents that spoke to BBC.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) Bahir Dar bureau confirmed to BBC it has received reports from various sources of an attack on unarmed civilians in Merawi town and said it was following up and conducting investigations.
Following the incident over the past few days, BBC spoke to five people including hospital sources who said most residents were killed in their homes and unarmed civilians were killed on roads.
On the morning of Monday, January 29, 2024 GC (Tir 20, 2016 EC), prior to the attack starting at around 6 am there was “heavy fighting” between the ENDF and Fano forces according to residents who said afterwards between 50 and 100 people were “executed”.
The attack was carried out later that morning at around 11 am after Fano forces withdrew from the town and the “national defense forces began executing people door to door or those they encountered on the streets” according to eyewitnesses who said the attack lasted until 7 pm at night.
One resident who is a day worker and father of four whose brother was killed said, “first they came to my home and began searching but when I told them ‘I am just a church person’ they left. Afterwards they entered my brother's home and took him away.”
After the resident’s brother was taken away, he expected he would be returned but he witnessed him being beaten with a gunstock and cudgel as he was taken away and later killed.
“They shot a young man on the cobblestone ground of our neighborhood five times, killing him. They [their brother and other people] were brought together in one place on the asphalt and all 13 of them were killed…they killed them right in front of us, that is why we believed this.”
Regarding this incident one health professional confirmed to BBC they were aware that the 13 people were killed on the side of the asphalt and that overall 85 people were killed that day in the town.
Another person who preferred not to state their name said their younger brother was “brutally executed” after being separated from his child.
“My brother was taken from his home where he was with his child and was killed. My spouse says ‘I was told to take the child so I did…they shot him in the forehead and killed him on the street right before my eyes. They also killed his friend who was with him.’”
They said they witnessed 50 bodies on the streets apart from their brother. They predict more people were killed across “various roads and thickets.”
Another eyewitness said they found many gravesites and predicted the number killed was more than 100.
The day after the attack, on the morning of January 30, 2024 GC (Tir 21, 2016 EC) one resident of Merawi town said they counted 48 bodies, “from Marzeneb Hotel to Berred Wenz there were bodies scattered from left to right.”
One eyewitness placed the total death count at around 115 saying after the ENDF took control everyone “from six year old children to 75 year old seniors” were killed in the Stadium and Tena Tabiya areas.
One eyewitness who is a hospital worker at the town’s primary care hospital said 25 people were admitted for injuries including a 6 months pregnant woman but “none survived”.
“All 24 who were admitted to hospital died. One six months pregnant woman made it to the hospital alive but she later died. Overall there were 25 that came.”
The ENDF not only conducted a house to house operation but carried out “reprisal or revenge” killings against abinet students they encountered on the streets according to residents, relatives and eyewitnesses.
The ENDF had personnel stationed in two areas of the town when on Monday morning Fano militants carried out a sudden attack on soldiers in the town’s administrative building, and the ENDF soldiers carried out “revenge measures” in response targeting a large number of people in the killings according to residents.
One resident whose home was searched said the [ENDF] “threatened” them saying “you are harboring Fano, you are the ones who got us attacked, you will surrender any Fano here”. The attack was described as reprisal according to the resident who said they chose “silence over death.”
A large number of people in various areas were killed and left there under horrific circumstances, according to residents who witnessed it who spoke to BBC “it was difficult to retrieve the bodies of the killed people.”
“Many of the people were identified by their clothing and the shape of their bodies. There was frustration because in addition to the bodies being badly dismembered by the gunfire, they [ENDF] prohibited the bodies from being retrieved for an entire day.” The witness also told BBC a mass burial was conducted.
Residents said “the killed victims did not receive proper burials in accordance with traditions” and described the attack saying “what transpired was cruelty above cruelty”.
The fighting which took place between the ENDF and Fano fighters “resulted in damages caused by heavy artillery” to two churches, in addition to private property and over 15 three wheeled vehicles (bajajs) being deliberately burned down according to residents.
As a result of this attack which killed a large number of people on the eve of the annual Tir 21 (January 30, 2024 GC) “Maryam Nigis” holiday, it was not celebrated with residents instead experiencing grief and sorrow.
Though five days have passed since the attack, residents said the town had remained very quiet with banks and commercial institutions closed, saying “there is no activity.”
BBC’s efforts to receive details and responses from the regional and zonal administration and the local command post were not successful.
Since last year conflict that broke out between government forces and Fano militants in various areas in Amhara Region have resulted in civilian casualties as we have previously reported.
According to reporting from Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) issued on October 30, 2023 (Tikimit 19, 2016 EC), since the month of Hamle 2015 EC (corresponds to the period between July 8, 2023 to August 6, 2023 GC) there has been armed conflict across all zones of Amhara Region which have resulted in a large number of killings and physical injuries to civilians.