Massacre at Tigray’s Mariam of Zion cathedral in Aksum

Martin Plaut

On Tuesday, 15th of December, Ethiopian federal troops and Amhara militia approached the Mariam of Zion cathedral in the Tigrayan city of Aksum. It is possible that they thought that Tigrayan troops were sheltering in the church – taking advantage of the ancient right of sanctuary. According to a number of sources the church was full, with some saying that up to 1,000 people were in the building or the compound surrounding it.

The advancing soldiers caused consternation: a chapel in the compound is believed by Ethiopians to house the biblical Ark of the Covenant. Only a monk – appointed as its guardian – may see it. There was a huge commotion. Amhara soldiers are reported to have shouted that “the Ark belongs in Addis Ababa!” but this cannot be confirmed. Those inside the cathedral came out to try to defend the sacred object.

A confrontation ensued. Everyone in the compound was forced into the square outside the cathedral. As the crowd milled around, there was further shouting and the troops opened fire on the protesting crowd. As many as 750 people are reported to have been killed.

News of the massacre has only gradually reached the outside world. People walked over 200 kilometres to the regional capital, Mekelle, and from there the story gradually filtered out – despite the clamp-down on the media in Tigray.

News of the massacre follows confirmation by the Ethiopian authorities that one of the most sacred Islamic sites, the Nejashi Mosque in the town of Wukro, had been badly damaged in fighting.

It was built in the 7th century by the companions of the Prophet Mohammad, some of whom are buried at the site.

The Ethiopian government accepts the damage took place, and promises to restore the building, which is one of the oldest mosques in the world.

The government say it was attacked after Tigrayan troops dug trenches around the mosque.

Independent journalists are being prevented from visiting the Tigray region – the site of a fierce conflict between Tigrayan fighters and Ethiopian and Eritrean troops, supported by Amhara militia.


  1. This is the most outrageous I have ever heard in my life. The false Dr Abiy who lured the whole world for being a peaceful man have gone berserk even to two of the most respected holy places on earth. What is the world waiting for. Get rid of these two mad and barbarian idiots.

  2. Sorry, I do not know Why the people of the world & leaders turned their face while all this kind of crime & Genocide happened in Tigray by the decorator Abiy Ahmed Ali. & the evil Eritrean leader Esayas Afework troops?

  3. This is the most outrageous pile of lies I have ever seen. Who would believe that Amhara militia will try to take this sacred object out of Tsion Mariam? Amharas are profoundly pious people and would never do such thing, if not out belief, at least out of fear! You don’t even know the people you are talking about! When you lie, make it at least believable. I know that you are contractually obligated to spew out fabricated news items on an industrial level, but please take 5 minutes to reread yourself: there was no Islam in the 4th century.

    1. One will not find greater fear of God than present among Amhara people. It’s hard to swallow the propaganda that this was done by Amhara militia. Unfortunately Amhara people have been the target of hate and racism since TPLF was conceived. Even after TPLF is gone, it’s sad to have to bear what it instilled in generations of other ethnicities against Amhara people who are shedding their blood with the national army for their country.

  4. I also question the accuracy of the reporting, with regard to the 4th century mosque in Wukro.. I am not actually familiar with the region though we have visited Axum, but Islam and Mohammad were 6-7th century C.E.. Mohammad and some of his followers fled to Axum to escape danger and were protected by the Ethiopian king there but Mohammad is most likely born in 570 CE. He was considered the last great prophet . While non-Muslims regard Muhammad as the founder of Islam, Muslims consider him to have restored the unaltered original monotheistic faith of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets

    I guess, to my point, it seems someone is seeking to stir up trouble between the Christian and Islamic Ethiopians.. May God bless us all.

  5. Dear Bekele,

    If you are so sure the true story is false, then by all means plead with PM Abiy to allow independent observers in. The world can then learn the truth, which I am sure will support the allegations made in the above piece.

    It pays to be honest with yourself before accusing others of falsehood. Don’t tell me Eritrean Forces have not occupied Ethiopia since 4 Nov either. There is no way Ethiopian forces on their own could have inflicted so much damage in Tigray. But that is a story for another day.

    For now, remember 750 innocent people have been slaughtered.

    1. In essence you fabricate a story and then put the burden of dis-proof on me, how convenient! Mr. Plaut made the news up without presenting an ounce of proof to back it up. Why don’t you ask him how he came up with the story? As for for Eritrea involvement in this war, where did I say I deny it? Endf top general confirmed the presence of Eritrean troop in Ethiopia, what else is there to say? If you are asking me whether I am outraged by this state of affairs, well my friend, I have no sympathy for both shabiya and woyane and they can go to hell for all I care. All I registered is that they are the scum of the earth because they brought mayhem and suffering upon my country.

      1. Religion is a detriment to the progress of humanity. The division in the belief of a god or a muhammad or a jehovah or a cloudkeeper deity only insulates one population from another and creates an us vs them mentality. You’re partaking in it.

        Destroy all the mosques, all the churches, and all the religious installations, and we can finally have peace among people, because we won’t have safe zones to spew our hatred from..

        1. I agree with you as far as we have misunderstood religious teachings and use them to strengthen our can you massacre people who have hidden in a church (a sign of final surrender if there is any) and surely these global peace prizes only turn the recipients into the opposite of all they stood for.

      2. I happen to be from Tigray and what I know for sure is Shabiyas have no mercy, everywhere they put their feet they’re massacring Tegaru and looting whatever they find regardless of how small it’s. As of Amharas, I hate expansionists, but generally speaking they’re ok. Regarding TPLF and Shabia I’m happy if they both disappeared from the face of this earth, but king Meshrefet included. One more thing, the current war on Tigray is surely not about Tplf but on entire Tegaru. Isayas and Meshrefet will pay the price for #GenocideOnTigray

  6. I can’t believe the so-called Ethiopian government, the dictator Essayas Afewerki of Eritrea, the Amhara militias are teamed up to destroy Tigray and the Tigrayan people. No electricity (except limited parts of Tigray), no movement of humans and goods throughout Tigray, no fuel, no food, no internet, no phone (except very few areas with censorship) for more than two months. If people like Bekele are saying every allegations done by his government are false, pressure your government for independence investigation. Otherwise, you are not different from your government period. Otherwise, you are also against the Tigrayan people.

  7. In this war, civilians are targeted systematically. Abiy Ahmed is using starvation as a weapon against the entire population. Communication is cut off, arbitrary killings and rape are reported by many. The incidents of Tsion Mariam and Al Nejash mosque, the most sacred places of worship for Christians and for Muslims respectively, are the apex of the criminal acts aimed at non-military targets in Tigray. If independent reporters are allowed in, they are likely to find evidence of ‘War Crime.’
    According to the UN website ( )
    ‘War Crimes’ means: ‘. Grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, namely, any of the following acts against persons or property protected under the provisions of the relevant Geneva Convention:
    .Wilful killing
    .Torture or inhuman treatment, including biological experiments;
    .Wilfully causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or health;
    .Extensive destruction and appropriation of property, not justified by military necessity and carried out unlawfully and wantonly ….

    Abiy Ahmed and his mentor Isaias Afwerki may find themselves answerable for the crimes committed in Tigray.

  8. Hier again, mr Plaut tries to preach hate against the amhara.
    When are you going to tell us that the TPLF destroyed the Axum Airport, mr plaut ?
    I hope your bielievers, tplf, release one day your real intention .

  9. For those who are denying people are getting killed this is a simple answer ask the International observer to come and observe the situation if the Ethiopian government have nothing to hide then they should allow the rest of the world to go in and report the situation the reason they didn’t do that is that a war crime are committed and still are getting committed and for those who think Ethiopian government can assess and send report well simple answer a killer won’t say I did it

  10. Everything is looted or destroyed in Tigray by the evils Amhara and Eritrean forces.
    The Amhara and Eritrean soldiers don’t have humanity at all!
    Tigray is bleeding purposely!
    Shame on the international organizations doing nothing to stop the genocide!

  11. In my opinion, such heavy story or claim must be supported by evidence. It is very difficult to believe that 750 people got killed and nobody spoke about it. But what make me sad is the poor fight TPLF put. What they had talked and promised is entirely different from what happened. More saddening is to see them being arrested like idiots.

    1. Actually may people have been speaking about the Aksum incident for a while. It is naturally for people to feel defensive about the government they trust. But when the true story comes out, they will realise that they were cheated.
      My humble advice would be: why is the government not allowing journalists to report from Tigray, why are factorises clinics, educational establishments, churches and mosques being deliberately destroyed?
      Why is the population of Tigray not allowed to use means of communication such telephone, internet…?
      Why is the Tigrayan people condemned to starvation? No food supply is allowed. Why sir?
      I thought the Ethiopian’s would make loud sounds about the plight of the civilian population of Tigray but to my surprise they come out in support of inhumane treatment of their compatriots.
      The Aksum incident is, sadly, one of many. Ethiopians better demand transparency and rule of law from their government rather than complain about why atrocities are reported.

    2. allow journalists and independent investigators to verify.communications has been completely blocked so this facts are hidden,

  12. The Amhara elites, militia and Fano don’t seem to have religion or any faith.
    They just feel happy by killing innocent civilians!
    Ethiopia turned in to hell by Amhara elites.
    They planned to weakened first Tigray then later Eritrea. They are cancer of Ethiopia through out history.
    They became enemy’s of Tigray because Tigray have been the one who established federalism,but Amhara never believe in equality.

  13. This is so saddening, A silent genocide and attrocities are looming in Tigrai, whats being shared is the tip of the iceberg.

    Such a shamefull inhuman leadership

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