Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

An airstrike in Ethiopia’s Tigray region killed 56 people and injured 30, including children, in a camp for displaced persons, two aid workers told Reuters news agency, citing local authorities and witness reports.

Getachew Reda, a spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) who fought against the central government, said in a tweet on Saturday: “Another senseless bumblebee attack by [Prime Minister] Abiy Ahmed in a GOP [internally displaced people] camp in Dedebit has so far claimed the lives of 56 innocent civilians. “

The attack in the town of Dedebit, in the northwest of the region near the border with Eritrea, took place late Friday night, say the aid workers, who asked not to be named as they are not authorized to speak to the media .

Military spokesman Colonel Getnet Adane and government spokesman Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s spokesperson Billene Seyoum did not respond to a request for comment.

The government has previously denied targeting civilians in the 14-month-long conflict with insurgent Tigrayan forces.

Earlier Friday, the government frees several opposition leaders out of jail and said it would enter into talks with political opponents to promote reconciliation.

Both aid workers said the death toll in Friday’s airstrike had been confirmed by local authorities. Aid workers sent photos to Reuters that they said they had taken from the wounded in the hospital, which included many children.

One of the aid workers, who visited the Shire Suhul General Hospital where the injured were brought for treatment, says the camp houses many elderly women and children.

“They told me the bombs came at midnight. It was completely dark and they could not escape, “said the aid worker.

One of the aid workers said one of the wounded in Friday’s raid, Asefa Gebrehaworia (75), burst into tears when he told how his friend was killed. He was treated for injuries to his left leg and hand.

Fighting forced Asefa out of his home and now the airstrike destroyed the camp, where he, even though he was hungry, at least had shelter, he told the aid worker. He arrived in the camp for displaced people from the border town of Humera.

Prior to the latest attack, at least 146 people had been killed and 213 injured in airstrikes in Tigray since October 18, according to a document compiled by aid agencies and shared with Reuters this week.

‘Self-righteous claims’

In Friday’s reconciliation movement, the government liberated opposition leaders from various ethnic groups. They included some leaders of the TPLF.

The TPLF has expressed skepticism about Abiy’s call for national reconciliation.

“His daily routine of refusing medication to helpless children and sending drones targeting civilians is flying in the face of his self-righteous claims,” ​​Getachew, spokesman, tweeted Friday.

The TPLF accuses federal authorities of imposing an aid blockade on the region, leading to hunger and shortages of necessities such as fuel and medicine. The government denies blocking the passage of aid convoys.

The European Union said although the release of opposition leaders was a positive step, they were concerned about the ongoing conflict in Tigray, citing the latest air strike.

“All parties must seize the moment to end the conflict quickly and enter into dialogue,” the bloc said in a statement issued by its High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell.

According to Teklay Gebremichael of the website documenting war crimes, the release of prisoners was a “threat” by Abiy to appease the international community.

“I think it’s important to see the release of the political prisoners in the right context,” Gebremichael told Al Jazeera.

“Over the past few months, tens of thousands of Tigrayans and Omoros have been sent to prison in Addis Ababa alone. By releasing about six or seven people yesterday, [Abiy] tried to create a positive environment around him to create a kind of prank on the international community that he was interested in negotiations and a peaceful solution to the conflict, when in fact he continued to do what he did – which is bombing civilians and trying to advance militarily to Tigray. “

The brutal conflict killed tens of thousands of people and was marked by a litany of abuse, including massacre and rape. It also left a serious humanitarian crisis in its wake, with millions of people displaced and in need of assistance.

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