(AFP) – May 6, 2008
NAIROBI (AFP) — Ethiopian troops in Somalia are increasingly resorting to throat-slitting executions, Amnesty International (AI) said Tuesday in a new report on the killing of civilians in Somalia.
The report by the rights watchdog said the blame for civilian deaths was shared by all parties in the conflict, but highlighted an "increasing incidence" of gruesome methods by Ethiopian forces.
"The people of Somalia are being killed, raped, tortured; looting is widespread and entire neighbourhoods are being destroyed," Michelle Kagari, the group's Africa Programme deputy director, said in a statement.
In a chapter on violations by Ethiopian forces, the report quoted several interviews conducted by Amnesty staff in Somalia.
In Mogadishu's Holwadag neighbourhood, 15-year-old Barni recounted how she found her father with his throat cut when she came back from school and found the rest of her family gone following an operation by Ethiopian forces.
Ceeblaa, a 63-year-old woman from the capital's Wardhigley district told AI she saw three men from her neighbourhood being rounded up by Ethiopian troops.
"The next morning, she saw the bodies of the three men on the street," the report said.
"One was strangled with electrical wire. The second had his throat cut. The third had been chained ankle to wrist, and his testicles had been smashed."
The rights group had recently accused Ethiopian forces of killing at least 21 people inside a Mogadishu mosque on April 19, seven of whom had their throats slit.
The Ethiopian government vehemently denied the allegations and demanded an apology.
"We hope AI will apologise for this erroneous report, we are expecting apologies from them. We cannot understand why AI keeps demonising the disciplined Ethiopian troops in Somalia," Ethiopian foreign ministry spokesman Wahide Belaye told AFP.
"We deeply regret that Amnesty International has lent itself to an obviously transparent and disgraceful smear campaign against the armed forces of Ethiopia, using highly emotive, even racist, language, language that it would not and has not used outside of Africa," said a foreign ministry statement issued later Tuesday.
Ethiopian forces came to the rescue of Somalia's embattled transitional government in late 2006 and soon defeated an Islamist militia that had taken control of large parts of the Horn of Africa country.
The remnants of the militia have since waged a deadly guerrilla battle against government forces, its Ethiopian allies and African Union peacekeepers, mainly in Mogadishu.
According to Amnesty, at least 6,000 civilians have been killed in fighting over the past year. Hundreds of thousands have had to flee Mogadishu, aggravating an already alarming nationwide humanitarian crisis.
Amnesty also detailed cases of rape, killings and looting committed by government forces as well as by insurgent groups.
The report stressed that civilians were no longer simply victims of fighting between belligerent parties but were increasingly being deliberately targeted by all sides.
"Among the most common violations reported were an increased incidence of gang rape," the report also said.
"People would tell us that there's a pattern of abuses," Amnesty campaigner David Copeman told a press conference in Nairobi.
"What's happening is that... there's an attack by armed groups opposed to the TFG (transitional federal government) and the Ethiopians. In response to that, there then will be an Ethiopian security sweep," he said.
"That's when the displacement occurs, because if you don't flee then you're in great danger," he explained.
The report stressed that civilians fleeing the capital's hotspots still risked being attacked and abused on the country's roads and its camps for the displaced.
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