Dozens of displaced Tigrayans killed in drone strike

Addis Ababa: An air strike in Ethiopia’s Tigray region killed 56 people and injured 30, including children, in a camp for displaced people, two aid workers said, citing local authorities and eyewitness accounts.

The government has previously denied targeting civilians in the 14-month conflict with rebellious Tigrayan forces.

Residents sift through rubble from a destroyed building at the scene of an airstrike in Mekele, in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, in late October.Credit:AP

The spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that has been fighting the central government, Getachew Reda, said in a tweet on Sunday (AEDT) that “Another callous drone attack by Abiy Ahmed in an IDP [Internally Displaced People] camp in Dedebit had claimed the lives of 56 innocent civilians so far.”

The strike in the town of Dedebit, in the north-west of the region near the border with Eritrea, occurred late on Friday night (Saturday AEDT), said the aid workers, who asked not to be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media.

Earlier on Friday, the government had freed several opposition leaders from prison and said it would begin dialogue with political opponents to foster reconciliation.

Both aid workers said the number of dead was confirmed by the local authorities. The aid workers sent Reuters pictures they said they had taken of the wounded in hospital, who included many children.

One of the aid workers, who visited Shire Suhul General Hospital where the injured were brought for treatment, said the camp hosted many old women and children.

“They told me the bombs came at midnight. It was completely dark and they couldn’t escape,” the aid worker said.

Ethiopian federal troops went to war with rebellious Tigrayan forces in November 2020. Since the war erupted, there have been atrocities by all sides, which the parties to the fighting have denied.

From peacemaker to warmonger: video from Abiy’s Twitter account on November 26 showed him on the battlefront of the country’s year-long war against Tigrayan forces.Credit:AP

One of the aid workers said that one of the wounded, Asefa Gebrehaworia, 75, burst into tears as he recounted how his friend was killed. He was being treated for injuries to his left leg and hand.

Fighting had forced Asefa out of his home and now the air strike had destroyed the camp, where even though he was facing hunger at least he had shelter, he told the aid worker. He had arrived in the camp for displaced people from the border town of Humera.

Before the latest attack, at least 146 people had been killed and 213 injured in air strikes in Tigray since October 18, according to a document prepared by aid agencies and shared with Reuters this week.

Military spokesman Colonel Getnet Adane and government spokesman Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokeswoman Billene Seyoum did not respond to a request for comment.

Reconciliation effort

In Friday’s reconciliation move, the government freed opposition leaders from several ethnic groups. They included some leaders of the TPLF.

The US government said Abiy had outlined the steps he was taking towards national reconciliation to its outgoing special envoy for the region, Jeffrey Feltman, when he visited Ethiopia this week.

“We welcome the release of prisoners as a positive move in that context,” said a spokesperson for the US State Department.

The European Union said that while the release of opposition leaders was a positive move, it was concerned by the ongoing conflict.

“All parties must seize the moment to swiftly end the conflict and enter into dialogue,” the bloc said in a statement issued by its high representative for foreign affairs, Josep Borrell.

The TPLF expressed scepticism about Abiy’s call for national reconciliation.

“His daily routine of denying medication to helpless children and of sending drones targeting civilians flies in the face of his self-righteous claims,” its spokesman Getachew tweeted on Friday.

The TPLF accuses federal authorities of imposing an aid blockade on the region, leading to hunger and shortages of essentials like fuel and medicines. The government denies blocking the passage of aid convoys.


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