A report has claimed that at least 750 people were shot dead after they were pulled out the popular church in Aksum in Tigray region of Ethiopia.
According to a dispatch by Belgium-based NGO European External Programme with Africa (EEPA), the incident was reported by those who fled the town and escaped to the regional capital of Mekelle on foot.
The report added that the area still remains inaccessible to journalists. The Church Times report citing former BBC World Service Africa editor, Martin Plaut said that the attacks were carried out by Ethiopian federal troops and Amhara militia after they dragged out those hiding in the church of Mary of Zion.
There were close to 1000 people taking refuge at the Maryam Tsiyon Church in Aksum, also known as the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion. Reports indicate that the locals swarmed the church after many feared that the troops were coming to take "the Ark."
There are also videos that have emerged that shows an open truck filled with bodies mostly of women and even babies. Another video shared on social media shows other churches in the region that were targeted by mortar rounds.
The videos and images of damaged church structures were shared by locals claiming that the forces were deliberately targeting the churches.
Since November, there has been a major escalation in violence in the region after the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, dispatched federal troops, along with militia from neighbouring Eritrea, to fight the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which he accused of holding illegitimate elections. The TPLF was part of the governing coalition of Ethiopia until 2019.
Though the Abiy Ahmed government has claimed that the conflict in the region has ended after his troops captured Mekelle, in late November, but reports indicate the TPLF continues to fight a guerrilla war.
The Tigray, a region in the north of Ethiopia is home to many churches and monasteries but the area also beset by conflict. The region gained international fame after over claim that the Ark of the Covenant — which contains the tablets with Ten Commandments written on them — is inside the Church of Our Lady Mary of Zion and that only the "guardian" of the ark is allowed to see it.