Map of civilian victims in the Tigray war

“Related to civilian damage, maximum caution was taken. In just 3 weeks of fighting, in any district, in Humera, Adi Goshu, … Aksum, …, Edaga Hamus, …. The defence forces never killed a single civilian in a single town. No soldier from any country could display better competence.” Those were the words of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in his victory speech for the federal parliament on November 30. He stressed: “Not a single civilian was killed”. The victory was counterfeit and so was the statement on no civilian casualties, sadly. Amid ongoing fighting, the number of killed soldiers is rising fast, and so is the number of civilians who are killed in the war. Just today the Aksum and Edaga Hamus massacres are headlines in international media. Names of civilians who lost their lives as a result of warfare slowly surface. The communication blackout and lockdown of the region make it very hard to get verified information, so the actual number of deaths is likely much higher than the sample that we have collected so far.

Through Twitter (@tvbempt), we have collected verified identities of civilian victims of the war on Tigray. The list is populated from a mix of sources, ranging from social media posts, media reports, advocacy groups listings (for instance Irob Advocacy) and direct reports (as posted for instance on tghat.com). The social media posts are mostly from family and friends who mourn the death of their loved ones, which they learnt about by telephone. Each one has been contacted to try and get a verification of the circumstances. Several advocacy groups are also documenting. It is however noted that there are families who, for various reasons, do not report loss of relatives on social media, reducing the sample of fully documented casualties. Among the families who reported the killing of their dearest, 14% have also provided a photograph.

The victims of the Hitsats (west of Shire) and Debre Abbay massacres (SSW of Shire) are poorly represented in our sample, which is probably related, in the first case because the victims are not locals but Eritrean refugees, and second case to remoteness of the place. Both massacres are represented by a special symbol on the map.

While no numbers exist for the total amount of civilian casualties, well-documented cases of 1164 deaths (by 21 February) indicate that: 7% of the dead are women, and 93% are men, in line with a frequently transpiring intention to “eradicate Tigray fighters, as well as the future generation of fighters”. Among the men, 7% are priests and deacons, traditionally people with authority in their community. All age groups are represented among the victims, in line with the population pyramid. Casualties are dominantly (27%) victims of massacres or killing sprees; 7% point-blank executions, in house searches, rounding up of civilians, or after arrest (including journalist Dawit Kebede). Though impressive in video footage, only 3% of the known victims were killed during shelling and airstrikes. 54% is killed by violence that has not been further detailed – most of them can be allocated in the massacre and executions categories. For the women, deceased victims of sexual violence may not be well documented.

Perpetrators comprised Amhara militia (7%), Eritrean (49%) and Ethiopian soldiers (11%) – with an additional 10% mentioning “either Ethiopian or Eritrean soldiers, they jointly carried out the killings”. In 23% of the cases, the affiliation of the perpetrator was not provided.

Data collection, interviewing and mapping by: Sofie Annys, Tim Vanden Bempt, Emnet Negash, Jan Nyssen.

8 thoughts on “Map of civilian victims in the Tigray war

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      1. Note that the map does not include victims of the recent bombardments on Samre and Gijet.

        Indeed, on 20-25 February, the ENDF has carried out multiple air raids on the towns of Gijet and Samre, held by the Tigray resistance. On 25 February, NY Times journalist Christiaan Triebert mentions that the Ethiopian Air Force bombings of Samre are evidenced by multiple photos of the tails of Soviet-era RBK cluster bombs, likely RBK250 ( https://twitter.com/trbrtc/status/1365517252360097797 ). The tails are fairly undamaged (serial number is visible) as it separates from the rest as the bomb falls, thereby releasing dozens of smaller, explosive bomblets ( https://archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2012/12/21/world/middleeast/21cluster-.html ) Typical sandstone landscape of Samre and building style of rural homesteads is recognisable on the photos published by Triebert.

        Reuters Africa reports that satellite imagery shows more than 500 destroyed buildings in Gijet and three surrounding villages, between 21 and 23 February ( https://twitter.com/ReutersAfrica/status/1364913384999813122 ). MapEthiopia, which follow the military situation on the ground, mentions that after a relentless air campaign, the ENDF has captured the towns of Samre and Gijet. Intense airstrikes have forced the civilian population and TDF fighters out into the mountains to seek shelter from the bombs. MapEthiopia further state that “The towns here have seen a flip flop of territorial control although this is the first time that intense airstrikes have been used here. Could see similar tactics and strategies being used by the ENDF for other towns and large villages under TDF control”. ( https://twitter.com/MapEthiopia/status/1365409501428412417 )

        Because cluster bombs release many small bomblets over a wide area, they pose risks to civilians both during attacks and afterwards. Cluster munitions are prohibited for the 120 nations that ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions; Ethiopia and Eritrea are not part of the convention. Yet, the use of these cluster bombs amounts to war crime.

        Due to communication black-out, numbers of victims and their names are not yet known.

        Liked by 1 person

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