At least 800 people are reported to have been killed in Ethiopia, where worshipers and soldiers risked their lives to protect what Christians there say is the Ark of the Covenant from local militias.
Ethiopian Christians claim that the ark – the wooden box built to bear the Ten Commandments of Moses – is safely preserved in a chapel in the northern holy city of Axum in the Tigray region.
The battle between Ethiopian soldiers and rebel fighters took place in the fall. The Sunday Times reported, But it is only being reported now.
“When people heard the gunfire, they rushed to the church to offer support to the priests and others who were there to protect the ark,” Ghetto Mac, a local university lecturer, told The Times.
“Certainly some of them were killed for doing so.”
Little is known about the deadly blockade since Tigray was cut off from the world and journalists banned from entering the region.
A deacon based in Axum told the Associated Press that he helped count bodies, collected identity cards of victims, and assisted with burials in mass graves.
An estimated 800 people are believed to have been killed in the church and around the city.
“If you attack Axum, you are attacking first and foremost the identity of the Tigrayans who are Orthodox but also all Ethiopian Orthodox Christians,” Wolbert Smidt, an ethnic historian who specializes in the area, told The Associated Press.
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