At least 800 people were reportedly killed in Ethiopia and worshipers and soldiers risked their lives to protect what the Christians there say is the covenant sacred ark from the local militia.
Ethiopian Christians claim the arch – a wooden chest built to contain the Ten Commandments of Moses – is being preserved in a chapel in the sacred northern city of Exum 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 now being told.
Local university lecturer Getu Maak told the Times, “When people heard the shooting, they ran to the church to offer aid to the priests and others.
“Certainly some of them were killed for doing so.”
Little was known about the deadly siege since Tigray was cut off from the world and journalists were barred from entering the area.
A deaf living in Exum told the Associated Press that he helped count the corpses, gathered the identity cards of the victims and helped to bury them in mass graves.
They believe that an estimated 800 people were killed around the church and the city.
“If you attack Axum, you attack the identity of the Orthodox Tigrans first, but also of all Ethiopian Orthodox Christians,” Ethnohistorians, who specialize in the field, told AP.
With post wires