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AP team in Ethiopia’s Tigray region documents Eritrean atrocities

A 40-year-old woman who was says she was held captive and repeatedly raped by 15 Eritrean soldiers over a period of a week in a remote village near the Eritrea border, speaks during an interview at a hospital in Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, May 14, 2021. “They talked to each other. Some of them: ‘We kill her.’ Some of them: ‘No, no. Rape is enough for her,’” she recalls. She said one of the soldiers told her: “This season is our season, not your season. This is the time for us.” (AP Photo / Ben Curtis)

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Uganda correspondent Rodney Muhumza and the Nairobi-based team of senior producer Khaled Kazziha, chief photographer Ben Curtis and freelance video journalist Desmond Tiro overcame government intimidation and security challenges to report from the ground on atrocities in Ethiopia’s Tigray region: Despite official denials, Eritrean soldiers are firmly entrenched in Tigray, brutally gang-raping women, killing civilians, looting hospitals and blocking food and medical aid. The coverage was funded by a grant from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.

Undeterred by initial difficulties obtaining visas for Ethiopia and then permission to visit Tigray, the team made their way to Mekele, where trustworthy local resources, including fixers, translators and drivers willing to be seen with foreign journalists needed to be found. Then the work of reporting began.

Documenting cases of abuse was no easier,with roads blocked by troops at every turn. And having found victims and eyewitnesses, this resourceful team had to gain their trust.

The resulting package is riveting,with searing interviews and arresting visuals, building on AP’s powerful body of coverage on the Tigray conflict over the past seven months.

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Tigrayan women Tarik, 60, center, and Meresaeta, left, who fled the town of Samre, roast coffee beans over a wood stove in a classroom which has become a makeshift home to thousands displaced by the Tigray conflict, in Mekele, northern Ethiopia, May 5, 2021. For months, both Ethiopia and Eritrea denied the presence of Eritrean soldiers in Tigray but Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed later acknowledged in March that Eritrean troops were “causing damages to our people.” AP has documented atrocities at the hands of Eritrean forces still entrenched in the region. – AP Photo / Ben Curtis
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