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Hundreds of Ethiopian migrants ‘killed by Saudi border guards’, says human rights group

Hundreds of Ethiopian migrants have been killed by Saudi border guards in what may constitute a crime against humanity, a leading human rights group has claimed.

An investigation by Human Rights Watch (HRW) has alleged that hundreds or “possibly thousands” of refugees fleeing armed conflict, economic hardships and droughts in their homelands and trying to cross from Yemen into Saudi Arabia between March 2022 and June 2023 were killed by Saudi border guards using machine guns and explosives. The report also detailed the murder of women and children, amputations and rape.

Through satellite imaging, photographs of fatalities from more than 20 incidents, witness testimony by survivors and forensic experts’ examination of survivors’ wounds, HRW has built up a “compelling and horrific picture of an escalating campaign of extreme violence aimed at people trying to cross the border”, said The Guardian.

While the civil war in Yemen has sparked one of the world’s gravest humanitarian crises since it began in 2014, the latest allegations highlight a “significant escalation of abuses along the perilous ‘Eastern Route’ from the Horn of Africa to Saudi Arabia, which is home to thousands of Ethiopian refugees”, reported The Independent.

“It is unclear why the Saudis would resort to tactics as brutal as those outlined in the report,” said The Telegraph. But, said HRW: “If committed as part of a Saudi government policy to murder migrants, these killings, which appear to continue, would be a crime against humanity.”

The revelations, said The Telegraph, will “raise serious questions” in Downing Street. The Crown Prince and Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, has been invited to the UK on a state visit this autumn, the first since he was accused of ordering the killing and dismembering of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in 2018.

HRW accused Saudi officials of “killing hundreds of women and children out of view of the rest of the world while they spend billions on sports-washing to try to improve their image”.

A Saudi government official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, called the HRW report “unfounded and not based on reliable sources”. But this was “without offering evidence to support the assertion”.

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