Ethiopian airstrike on Tigray kills six, including children

The government says the attack hit a factory in Mekelle used by TPLF, but a hospital, rebel sources say a residential area was targeted.

The Ethiopian army has carried out an airstrike in the capital of the war-torn Tigray region that, according to a hospital official and rebel sources, killed six people and wounded 21 others.

The government said Thursday’s attack, the latest in an aerial bombing campaign, hit a factory in Mekelle used by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The air force “destroyed the second part of Mesfin Industrial Engineering. The facility was used by the TPLF terrorist group to maintain its military equipment, ”said government spokeswoman Selamawit Kassa.

Dr Hayelom Kebede, director of research at Ayder de Mekele Reference Hospital, said a residential area was attacked and casualties occurred.

“So far, six people have died and 21 have been injured. They all came to Ayder hospital, ”he said.

The Tigrai Office of Communications Affairs, an information channel linked to TPLF, reported the same toll and said the strike affected a residential area.

Nahusenay Belay, a spokesman for Tigray, denied that the airstrike hit a military target and said it hit a “civilian residence”, killing six people and wounding more than 20. Three children were among the dead, he said.

Earlier, TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda confirmed the attack on Mekelle and said that rebel air defense units were attacking an enemy aircraft.

A doctor told the Reuters news agency that the attack affected the residential area of ​​Kebele 5.

Photos from the scene appeared to show rescuers pulling bodies out of the rubble.

Tigrayan television showed images of Red Cross workers at the site where brick structures with corrugated iron roofs collapsed. Blankets and teapots can be seen among the bloodstained remains. At one point, gloved volunteers hastily cover a body part with a sheet.

When asked by Reuters for a comment on the alleged civilian deaths, government spokesman Legesse Tulu responded in a text message: “There is no willful and deliberate damage to civilians and their property. The air strike successfully reached its objective. “

Much of northern Ethiopia is blocked from communications and access for journalists is restricted, making independent verification of claims on the battlefield difficult.

Tigray was hit by near-daily aerial bombardments last week as the military stepped up its use of air power in the year-long war against the TPLF.

The Ethiopian government has claimed that recent airstrikes have been limited to military targets, but Tigray forces have claimed that civilian facilities, including factories and a clinic, have been targeted instead.

The government said the bombed facilities in north and west Tigray were military in nature and assisted the TPLF, the region’s former ruling party.

The United Nations said two attacks on Mekelle on October 18 killed three children and injured several other people. Another person died in a subsequent attack.

Control of the skies, along with a superior workforce, is one of the few remaining areas where the federal government has a military advantage over the rebels.

The bombings have sparked international censorship and disrupted UN access to the region where an estimated 400,000 people face famine conditions under a de facto aid blockade.

Meanwhile, fighting continues in Ethiopia’s neighboring Amhara region after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government launched a ground offensive there earlier this month, despite international calls for a ceasefire.

Tigray erupted into conflict in November 2020 after Ahmed sent troops to overthrow the TPLF.

The 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on army camps and promised a quick victory, but by late June the rebels had regrouped and retaken most of the region. , including Mekelle.

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