In Ethiopia, at least 800 people were reportedly killed as worshippers and soldiers sacrificed their lives to defend from local militia what Christians there claim is the holy Ark of the Covenant.
In a chapel in the holy northern city of Axum in the Tigray region, Ethiopian Christians say the Ark, the wooden chest constructed to house the Ten Commandments of Moses, is being held securely.
The Sunday Times reported that the war between Ethiopian soldiers and rebel fighters took place in the fall, but it is only being reported now.
Getu Mak, a local university lecturer, told The Times, 'When people heard the shooting, they rushed to the church to provide help to the priests and others who were there guarding the ark.'
"Some of them have certainly been killed for doing that."
Since Tigray is cut off from the world and journalists were barred from entering the area, little was known about the deadly siege.
A deacon residing in Axum told the Associated Press that he helped count the bodies, retrieved the identification cards of victims, and assisted with mass grave burials.
He claims that an estimated 800 people in the church and around the city were killed.
Wolbert Smidt, an ethnohistorian who specializes in the region, told the AP, "If you attack Axum, you attack first and foremost the identity of Orthodox Tigrayans, but also of all Ethiopian Orthodox Christians."