750 people have been massacred at a church in Ethiopia known for claiming to possess the Ark of the Covenant.

Various sources have reported the attack, which occurred at Maryam Tsiuon Church in the town of Aksum, CBN News reports.

Eyewitnesses report seeing Ethiopian government troops and Amhara militia, a youth vigilante group, attack the church.

More than 1,000 people reportedly gathered around the church at the time of the attack.

Many people were shot in the square in front of the church, Christian Headlines reports.

Martin Plauth, a former BBC World Service Africa editor and senior research fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, says local residents believe the intention of the attack was to remove the Ark of the Covenant.

"People were worried about the safety of the Ark, and when they heard troops were approaching feared they had come to steal it. All those inside the cathedral were forced out into the square," Plauth says.

The church was not damaged, Plauth adds.

Europe External Programme with Africa, a non-governmental organization based in Belgium, first revealed the attack had occurred.

The region where Aksum is located has been a place of combat over politics since early November. At that time, the ruling political party captured the army base in the region's capital.

In response to the uprising, a military operation was ordered by Ethiopia's prime minister, Abiy Ahmed.

Ahmed the announced military operations had ended and federal troops once again controlled the regions on Nov. 28.

A guerilla war continues, however.

Witnesses that fled from town where the attack took place are reported to have walked more than 100 kilometres to the region capital following the massacre, according to the Church Times.

Ethiopian Orthodox Christians believe the Ark of the Covenant was hidden in Aksum by the son of King Solomon. Aksum was one of the four great powers of the ancient world and today the town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Ark is reportedly hidden from view and kept in the Chapel of the Tablet in the church complex. Only one priest is allowed inside.