Airstrike on market in Tigray region kills dozens, witnesses say

Tigray airstrike on Tuesday on crowded market killed “more than 80 civilians,” according to medical personnel and witnesses. ...

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    • Tigray airstrike on Tuesday on crowded market killed “more than 80 civilians,” according to medical personnel and witnesses.
    • Health workers denounced that soldiers prevented them from entering the area.
    • The Tigray region of northern Ethiopia remains in conflict.

An airstrike occurred on Tuesday in a crowded market in the Togoga village, in northern Ethiopia’s Tigray region, according to health workers, who said soldiers prevented medical teams from entering the scene. Dozens of people were killed according to a former resident of the area, who cited witnesses.

Two doctors and a nurse in the regional capital of Tigray, Mekele, told The Associated Press that they could not confirm how many people died, but a doctor said health workers at the scene reported “more than 80 civilians dead.” Health workers spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation.

Tigray airstrike
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Tigray airstrike

The alleged airstrike comes amid some of the fiercest fighting in the Tigray region since the conflict began in November, when Ethiopian forces backed by neighboring Eritrea pursued former Tigray leaders. A spokeswoman for the Ethiopian prime minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Injured patients being treated at Ayder hospital in Mekele told health workers that a plane dropped a bomb on the Togoga market. The six patients included a 2-year-old boy with “abdominal trauma” and a 6-year-old boy, the nurse said.

Tigray airstrike

Tigray airstrike
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An ambulance carrying an injured baby to Mekele was blocked for two hours and the baby died on the way, the nurse added. Hailu Kebede, head of foreign relations for the opposition Salsay Woyane Tigray party who hails from Togoga, told the AP that a witness who fled the attack counted more than 30 bodies and other witnesses reported that more than 50 people were killed.

“It was horrible,” said a staff member of an international aid group who told the AP that he had spoken with a colleague and others at the scene. “We don’t know if the planes came from Ethiopia or Eritrea. They continue to search for corpses by hand. More than 50 people died, maybe more ”.

Tigray airstrike

Tigray airstrike
Getty Images

On Tuesday afternoon, an ambulance convoy trying to reach Togoga, about 15 miles (25 kilometers) west of Mekele, was turned away by soldiers near Tukul, health workers said. Several more ambulances were returned later in the day and on Wednesday morning, but a group of medical workers arrived at the scene Tuesday night by a different route.

Those medical workers were treating 40 injured people, but told their colleagues in Mekele that the number of injured is likely to be higher as some people fled after the attack. Five of the injured patients were said to need emergency operations, but health workers were unable to evacuate them.

Tigray airstrike

Tigray airstrike
Getty Images

“We have been asking, but until now we have not obtained permission to go, so we do not know how many people have died,” said one of the doctors in Mekele. Another doctor said the Red Cross ambulance he was traveling in on Tuesday while trying to reach the scene was shot twice by Ethiopian soldiers, who held his team for 45 minutes before ordering them to return to Mekele.

“We are not allowed to go,” he said. “They told us, whoever goes, is helping the TPLF troops.” The TPLF refers to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which ruled Tigray until it was overthrown by a federal government offensive in November. Subsequent clashes have killed thousands and forced more than 2 million people from their homes.

Tigray airstrike

Tigray airstrike
Getty Images

While the United Nations has said that all parties have been accused of abuses, Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers have been repeatedly accused by witnesses of looting and destroying health facilities in the Tigray region and denying civilians access. to medical care.

This month, humanitarian agencies warned that 350,000 people in Tigray are facing famine. Aid workers have said soldiers have repeatedly denied them access to various parts of the region. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government says it has nearly defeated the rebels.

Tigray airstrike

Tigray airstrike
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But forces loyal to the TPLF recently announced an offensive in parts of Tigray and have scored a series of victories. A resident of Adigrat, about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Mekele, said a group of Tigrayan fighters briefly entered the city on Tuesday, although he said it had since been retaken by Ethiopian and Eritrean forces.

He said that since then federal police have been seen beating people downtown. “Everyone stays at home, there is no movement in the city,” he said. Further fighting was also reported in Edaga Hamus and Wukro, two towns on the main road to Mekele.

Tigray airstrike

Tigray airstrike
Getty Images

The reports came as Ethiopia held federal and regional elections on Monday. Voting was peaceful in most of the country, although there was no voting in Tigray.

Voting was delayed last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, increasing tensions between the federal government and the TPLF, which went ahead with its own regional elections in September.

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