Ethiopian military airstrikes kill 3 in Tigray capital

Tuesday October 19 2021
Ethiopian soldiers

Ethiopian soldiers rest in front of the entrance to the 5th Battalion of the Northern Command of the Ethiopian Army in Dansha, Ethiopia, on November 25, 2020. PHOTO | FILE


The Ethiopian military on Monday carried out air strikes in the capital of the troubled Tigray region and killed at least three people.

Eyewitnesses, senior officials of the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) and aid workers confirmed the bombing that targeted a busy market and a hotel where several international aid workers stay.

A regional TV station also reported that there was an air strike in Mekelle and blamed the 2019 Nobel peace laureate and Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for the attacks.

Kindeya Gebrehiwot, a spokesman for the Tigray authorities who lives in Mekelle, told the Associated Press that a market was bombed on a busy shopping day.

He added that three people were killed and several others injured in the attacks.

He said the air strikes took place on Monday at around 9:30am at two different locations - Harena or Mesebo and Adihaqi - where major hotels and the city's main market are located.


"Abiy Ahmed's 'Air Force’ sent its bomber jet to attack civilian targets in and outside Mekelle. Monday is market day in Mekelle and the intention is all too palpable" Getachew Reda, a senior TPLF official wrote on his Twitter page.

"While they are losing big in what they dubbed as a final offensive against Tigray, they will obviously continue to target civilians in a desperate move to exact revenge on the people of Tigray."

Mekelle residents who spoke to international media outlets said that at least seven people were also wounded in the second attack, which also severely damaged a four-star hotel.

"One of their targets was the Planet Hotel, where a dozen or so humanitarian agencies used to have their employees. Apparently, the authorities in Addis are in the know about UN Ethiopia’s recent decision to move most of its workforce out of Mekelle and Tigray," Getachew, a former communication minister, said in his tweet. 

"Whatever the connections there, however, our people won’t be cowed into submission by a desperate move by a desperate regime teetering on the brink of collapse."

The Ethiopian government, however, dismissed the reports of air raids.

“There is no reason, or no plan, to strike civilians in Mekelle, which is a part of Ethiopia, and home to our own citizens. This is an absolute lie," Legesse Tulu, head of the government communication service, told AFP news agency.

"It is a total and absolute lie of the TPLF junta, just to misguide the international community, to create pressure on the Ethiopian state."

The bombing of Mekelle came two days after TPLF, which is fighting government and allied forces, announced major victories in a week of renewed heavy fighting.

TPLF officials on Saturday said their forces had destroyed the whole of eastern command of the National Defense Force, including more divisions that were deployed as reinforcements.

They also vowed that Tigray forces will end PM Abiy's "final and decisive" offensives in a matter of "days or a couple of weeks".

Conflict erupted in Tigray last November, when PM Abiy ordered a military operation against Tigray in a bid to depose TPLF leaders, who had ruled the region and the country for nearly 30 years.

The fighting has claimed the lives of tens of thousands of people and left about 5.2 million people in need of emergency food assistance.

The United Nations says hundreds of thousands of people are living in famine-like conditions.

A blockade on fuel deliveries and medical supplies, the closure of banks and power blackouts have worsened the humanitarian crisis in the Tigray region.

US President Joe Biden, in a meeting with his Kenyan counterpart Uhuru Kenyatta on Friday, reiterated the need for a peaceful resolution to the bloody conflict in Ethiopia.

TPLF said a few days ago that it is ready to sit down with the Abiy government to find a peaceful way out of the civil war.

The group, however, accused Addis Ababa of rejecting calls for mediation.

Ethiopia has repeatedly ruled out negotiations with TPLF, a group designated by Addis Ababa as a terrorist entity.