Around 750 people are believed to have been killed at a church which some believe holds the Ark of the Covenant.

According to the Belgium-based Europe External Programme with Africa, the Ethiopian army massacred hundreds at the Maryam Tsiyon Church (Church of St. Mary of Zion) in Aksum as the government fights a brutal internal conflict.

The dead were all ethnic Tigrays fleeing the violence in another area. Observers estimate the massacres occurred just before Christmas.

“Hundreds of people hiding in the Maryam Tsiyon Church were brought out and shot on the square in front. The number of people killed is reported as 750,” the report claims.

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians believe the church contains the Ark of the Covenant, an artifact of the ancient Israelites sacred to both Christians and Jews.

Since November, the Ethiopian government has been fighting a war against the Tigray regional government, which rejected the legitimacy of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Locals believed that government forces wanted to take the Ark out of Tigray territory to Ethiopia’s capital. It’s unclear if this was attempted.

Sources on the ground say that the church did not sustain significant damage. The church was first built in the fourth century by ancient Ethiopia’s first Christian ruler, with multiple buildings since.

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