In impoverished Cherkos village, near Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, friends and families of Balcha Belete and Eyassu Yekunoamlak, two people believed to have been killed by Islamic State (IS) terrorists, were inconsolable and the entire village was plunged in grief. Belete and Yekunoamlak, like so many intending migrants who have left the continent in search of a better life, had left Ethiopia two months ago with the aim of reaching Europe.
They were believed to have travelled to Libya through Sudan, and from Libya, they planned to take a boat to Europe but were seized by IS militants, the victims’ relatives said.
Ethiopians are mourning its nationals executed by the IS terrorist group in Libya after a video released on Sunday appeared to show militants killing about 30 Ethiopian Christians.
Even until a month back, the victims used to communicate with their family members over the phone, but after reaching Libya all channels of communication were disconnected, according to Seyoum Yekunoamlak, the elder brother of Eyasu.
“The whole time we were hoping that he has crossed the borders safely”, Seyoum said. “He told our mother that he was going on a field work and he told me that he was with his friends.”
The IS video, released by the terrorist group’s official propaganda wing, opened with a call for IS supporters to target Christians.
One set of captives was beheaded in an area the militants called Barqa province, alongside the Mediteranean Sea. It is, however, believed to be the city of Derna in Libya. It is the same place that the terrorist group is believed to have killed 21 Egyptian Christians in February.
The other group of Ethiopians was shot dead in southern Libya’s Fazzan province.
“I saw the news on Facebook and I was not sure, or I did not want to believe it is my brother, but then later on, when my friends confirmed to me I was shocked beyond words”, Seyoum Yekunoamlak said. “I am very sad and especially the fact that I saw the video of how my brother was killed, his face and the pain he was probably in, is an image I will never forget.”
In a fast globalising world, killing of innocents in the name of religion cannot be tolerated, said Indian Ambassador to Ethiopia Sanjay Varna.
“Like my own country, Ethiopia celebrates all religions of the world in a secular belief. It is that much more troubling when such fanatical acts are directed against societies like India and Ethiopia that cherish diversity and demonstrate that people of varied persuasions and faith can live and prosper together”, Varma said.
“India has lived through such terrorism and we fully empathise with the government and people of Ethiopia, particularly the families that have lost their young men in this unpardonable incident,” Varma added.
The Ethiopian government has declared three days of mourning after confirming that many Ethiopians held captive in Libya were killed by the IS. The government said on Tuesday that during the days of mourning the national flag will fly at half-mast.
Redwan Hussein, the Ethiopian government communications affairs office spokesman, said that he believed the victims were Ethiopian migrants trying to reach Europe, an account bolstered by local residents who said impoverished young men were tempted to make the perilous journey to Europe.
“The Ethiopian government is deeply saddened by the barbarous act committed against our innocent nationals and we will meet (to) discuss the killings and consider the country’s possible response,” he stated.
Mersha Meteku, a close friend of both victims, said that though the actions of the IS and especially its killing of Egyptian Coptic Christians was not unknown, they had never expected something similar happening to Ethiopians.
“Our only worries were that they would probably be harmed from the sinking boat, and may be border problems. We did not see this coming”, he said.
“They are like brothers. They used to do everything together. They died together as they have lived”.
Ethiopians in Addis Ababa and across the country are expected to protest the killings.
Meanwhile, Seyoum Yekunoamlak, who lost his innocent brother, said that his family would never recover from this incident as they had the image of his brother imprinted in their minds.
“I moved out of my parents’ house but for my mother he is everything. We don’t have sisters and he was there for my mother doing everything she ever wanted”, he said.