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Ethiopia: Airstrikes hit Tigray capital, says local media

October 18, 2021

The announcement was made by regional TV controlled by the Tigray People's Liberation Front and confirmed by humanitarian sources. They are the first air raids on Mekele since the conflict began a year ago.

Äthiopien | Luftangriffe in Mekelle
Image: Million Haileselassie/DW

Airstrikes hit the capital of Ethiopia's Tigray region on Monday, injuring several civilians, regional TV controlled by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) reported. However, the government initially denied the reports. 

What do we know about the airstrikes?

Tigrai TV said the attack on the capital, Mekele, was carried out by Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia's prime minister.

This was confirmed to the Agence France-Presse by humanitarian officials. "Airstrike now in Mekele," one humanitarian official in the city said via SMS to AFP on condition of anonymity. The attacks were also confirmed by a second humanitarian source, two diplomats and a TPLF spokesman.

The airstrikes were later confirmed on Monday by the state-run Ethiopian Press Agency.

A resident of the city told Reuters one strike hit close to a market, behind a hotel. An aid worker and a doctor in the region also said there had been an attack, and a diplomat shared pictures of what they said was the aftermath, including pools of blood and smashed windows.

Ethiopia's government spokesman, Legesse Tulu, denied launching an attack. "Why would the Ethiopian government attack its own city? Mekele is an Ethiopian city," he said. "Terrorists are the ones who attack cities with innocent civilians in them, not government," Legesse added. He also accused the TPLF of killing civilians in neighboring regions.

'Designed to inflict civilian casualties'

The first air raid occurred in the morning on the outskirts of Mekele near a cement factory, the sources said. The second took place around midday in the city center near the Planet Hotel, which is often used by top officials from the TPLF. The TPLF said the aerial assaults were designed to inflict civilian casualties. 

"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," TPLF spokesman Getachew K Reda said on Twitter.

The Ethiopian military and its allies have been fighting forces from the northern region of Tigray for 11 months. The strikes come as the government appeared to be pursuing a new offensive in the war against the TPLF, which dominated national politics before Abiy took office in 2018. 

There were reports last week of new clashes between government and TPLF forces in Afar, a region bordering Tigray, to which fighting has also spread. 

lc/rt (Reuters, AFP)