Ethiopian airstrike on Tigray camp for displaced people killed dozens, aid workers say

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Two aid workers told Reuters on Saturday, citing local authorities and eyewitnesses, that an air strike in Ethiopia’s Tigray region killed 56 people and wounded 30, including children, in a camp for the displaced.

Army spokesman Colonel Geetnet Adan and government spokesman Legis Tulu did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Beilin Seyoum, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, did not respond to a request for comment.

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

A spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front fighting the central government, Getachew Reda, said in a tweet on Twitter that “another cruel drone attack by Abiy Ahmed in Dedebet IDP camp has claimed the lives of people. 56 innocent civilians so far.”

Aid workers, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media, said the strike in the town of Didibet, northwest of the region near the border with Eritrea, took place late on Friday night.

Earlier on Friday, the government released several opposition leaders from prison and said it would start a dialogue with political opponents in order to promote reconciliation.

Both aid workers said local authorities had confirmed the death toll. Aid workers sent Reuters pictures they said they had taken of the wounded in the hospital, including many children.

An aid worker, who visited the Sherry Plains General Hospital where the wounded were taken for treatment, said the camp hosts many elderly women and children.

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

The Ethiopian federal forces went to war with the Tigrayan rebel forces in November 2020. Since the outbreak of the war, Reuters has reported atrocities committed by all sides, which the fighting parties have denied.

An aid worker said one of those wounded in Friday’s strike, Asefa Gebrehoria, 75, broke down in tears as he recounted how his friend had been killed. He was being treated for injuries to his left leg and left hand.

The fighting forced a storm out of his house and now the air raid had destroyed the camp, where he had at least been sheltering even though he was facing starvation, he said. He had arrived at a camp for the displaced from the border town of Hamira.

Before the latest strike, at least 146 people were killed and 213 injured in air strikes in Tigray since October 18, according to a document prepared by aid agencies and seen by Reuters this week.

Reconciliation effort

In a reconciliation move on Friday, the government released opposition leaders from several ethnic groups. Among them were some leaders of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front.

The US government said Abiy made clear the steps he is taking toward 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 step in this context,” a State Department spokesman said.

The European Union said that while the release of opposition leaders was a positive step, it was concerned about the ongoing conflict in Tigray, citing the recent air strike.

“All parties must seize the opportunity to quickly end the conflict and engage in dialogue,” the bloc said in a statement issued by its High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell.

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

“His daily routine of denying helpless children treatment and sending drones targeting civilians in the face of his allegations,” organization spokesman Getachew wrote on Twitter on Friday.

The TPLF accuses the federal authorities of imposing an aid embargo on the region, which has led to starvation and shortages of basic items such as fuel and medicine. The government denies obstructing the passage of aid convoys.



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