ADDISABABA – An Ethiopian air strike hit the capital of the northern region of Tigray on Thursday, with Tigrayan forces saying it killed three civilians in their homes, while the government said the strike hit a factory where military equipment was stored.
A doctor told Reuters he saw six people pulled out of the rubble from the bombing, and that he could not tell if they were alive or dead. He said the strike hit the residential Kebele 5 area.
Tigrayan television screened pictures of Red Cross workers at the site of collapsed brick structures with corrugated iron roofs. Blankets and kettles can be seen among bloodstained wreckage. At one point, gloved volunteers hastily cover a body part with a sheet.
The government said in a statement that the air strike hit and destroyed the other part of Mesfin Industrial Engineering PLC, a factory complex bombed last week, which it said the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) was using to maintain military equipment.
But TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda told Reuters that the air strike hit Kebele 05 and that three people were killed, several other injured and three houses destroyed.
Asked for a comment on the alleged civilian deaths, government spokesperson Legesse Tulu replied in a text message: “There is not any intended and deliberate harm on civilians and their properties. The air strike successfully hit its target.”
It was not immediately possible to verify either side’s claims. Most communications are down in the Tigray region.
The central government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa has been fighting the Tigrayan forces, led by the TPLF, for nearly a year. The conflict has killed thousands of people and displaced more than two million.
The TPLF now controls most of Tigray and parts of the two neighbouring regions. Thursday’s strike is the latest in a campaign of aerial bombardments that the government began on Oct. 18.
The air offensive accompanies intensified fighting in two neighbouring northern regions – Afar and Amhara – where the military is trying to recover territory taken by the TPLF.