Drone strikes in Ethiopia’s Tigray has killed at least 19 people in the latest reported attacks in the war-stricken region even as US president Joe Biden raised concerns about recent airstrikes with the Ethiopian prime minister.
At least 17 people working at a flour mill were killed and dozens injured in the deadliest strike on Monday in the southern Tigray town of Mai Tsebri, said one of the humanitarian workers, citing witness accounts.
“A witness told me that the drones came and hovered a bit before dropping bombs. Then people panicked but after some minutes everyone heard huge shouting and they went to the scene to see that women and donkeys died.”
In another strike on Tuesday, two people were killed and dozens injured in Hiwane, south of Tigray’s capital Mekelle, according to an official and a doctor from the city’s main hospital.
The attacks came after dozens of people were reported to have been killed and many more injured in a drone strike on Friday on a camp in north-western Tigray for people displaced by Ethiopia’s brutal 14-month conflict.
Monday’s reported strike came on the same day that the US president, Joe Biden, voiced concern about the continuing violence in a phone call with the Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Biden expressed concern that “ongoing hostilities, including recent airstrikes, continue to cause civilian casualties and suffering”, according to a White House statement.
It was not possible to independently verify the reports because access to Tigray is restricted and it remains under a communications blackout.
An Ethiopian government spokesperson said on Tuesday she had no information on the alleged strikes.
Rebels from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) say government forces are continuing to wage airstrikes despite them retreating to their Tigray stronghold in December.
Their withdrawal followed a government offensive that led to the recapture of a string of strategic towns, and had raised hopes of a possible opening towards a ceasefire.
On Friday, the government announced an amnesty for several senior TPLF figures and other high-profile opposition leaders in what it said was a bid to pave the way for national dialogue and “unity”.
The fighting between forces loyal to Abiy and the TPLF and their allies has killed thousands of people and forced several million from their homes since it erupted in November 2020.
Tigray is under what the UN calls a de facto blockade that is preventing life-saving food and medicine from reaching its 6 million people, including hundreds of thousands in famine-like conditions.
The World Health Organization chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, himself a Tigrayan, said on Twitter he was “deeply concerned about reports of another drone strike in Tigray, resulting in injuries and death of too many civilians”.
He said he echoed a call by the UN secretary general, António Guterres, “for an end to the conflict in Ethiopia and for humanitarian aid to be urgently allowed in”.
The aid workers who spoke to AFP also said the attack on the displaced persons camp in Dedebit in northwestern Tigray had killed 59 people, with one reporting 138 wounded.
After that strike, aid agencies suspended their operations in the area, according to the UN’s emergency response agency OCHA. (Source: The Guardian)