An airstrike on Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region, was launched by the Ethiopian army on Wednesday, for the second time in a week. The raid “targeted facilities transformed (into a center for manufacturing weapons and repairing their military equipment,” the government spokesman said. Eight people were injured.
The Ethiopian army launched an air attack on Mekele, the capital of the northern region of Tigray, on Wednesday (October 20) for the second time this week, marking a further escalation of the conflict that has lasted for nearly a year.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the federal army to the region on November 4, 2020, after months of tension, to drive out the dissident regional authorities from the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which wielded power. power in Ethiopia until 2018.
Unlike Monday’s strikes, the first on Mekele reported since the start of the conflict, the Ethiopian government quickly confirmed the information first given by humanitarian sources and a resident.
The raid “targeted facilities transformed (by the Tigrayan rebels) into a center for manufacturing weapons and repairing their military equipment,” government spokesman Legesse Tulu told AFP.
Eight people were injured, including a pregnant woman, said Dr Hayelom Kebede of Ayder Hospital, Mekele’s main health facility.
The aerial bombardment notably destroyed an industrial site, according to a resident of Mekele.
“It was very heavy and the plane was very close. The whole site burned down, we don’t know if there were any victims, but the whole company went up in smoke,” he said. precise.
The government spokesman then reported on another strike, this time west of Mekele. It targeted “a training center and a heavy artillery depot” in the Tembien area, Legesse Tulu told AFP by text message.
The United States “condemns the continued escalation of violence, which puts civilians at risk,” responded State Department spokesman Ned Price.
The UN expressed concern on Wednesday after the latest violence, noting in particular that according to initial information civilians, including women and children, were among the wounded in Mekele.
“We have made clear our concerns about the impact of these operations on civilians as well as the need to avoid any offensive operation that could target civilians,” Farhan Haq, a spokesperson for the secretary-general, told reporters. of the UN, Antonio Guterres.
The strikes “appear to be part of efforts to weaken armed resistance in Tigray” as TPLF forces gain ground in the Amhara region, south of Tigray, said William Davison, an expert in Tigray. Ethiopia to the International Crisis Group (ICG).
“Besides numerical superiority, control of the skies is one of the last areas in which the federal government retains a military advantage,” he added.
On Monday, the Ethiopian army carried out two raids against TPLF positions in Mekele. According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha), at least three children had been killed.
Initially, the government had qualified as “total lie” the information from humanitarian, diplomatic and medical sources reporting these bombings.
State media then confirmed the information and claimed that airstrikes had targeted TPLF targets.
For two weeks, various sources have reported signs of a new Addis Ababa offensive against Tigray officials.
TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda denounced Wednesday’s raid he said against a residential area in Mekele. “The government’s reaction to its losses in the current conflict is to target civilians hundreds of kilometers from the battlefield,” he added on Twitter.
A little later, he claimed responsibility for the TPLF’s capture of at least two towns in the Amhara region, placing Kombolcha and Dessie “within artillery range”, where tens of thousands of civilians had taken refuge in front of it. advance of the rebels since July.
Ethiopia’s foreign ministry on Monday accused the TPLF of attacks on civilians in neighboring Amhara and Afar regions.
At the start of the conflict, federal forces quickly took control of most of the region, including Mekele, which fell into their hands at the end of November 2020.
But in June, the TPLF took over most of Tigray and then continued its offensive in the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar, exacerbating a humanitarian crisis affecting hundreds of thousands of people.
According to the UN, at least two million people have been displaced by the conflict in Tigray and neighboring regions.