More than 50 people including civilians have reportedly been killed after Ethiopian forces bombed a busy market at a town in the war-torn northern region of Tigray. As many as 400 people were also injured in the aerial attack.
Witnesses say Tuesday’s attack targeted a busy market in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray village of Togoga.
The bomb hit the market at approximately 1pm (10:00 GMT), according to a woman who told Reuters news agency that her husband and two-year-old daughter were injured in the attack.
“We didn’t see the plane but we heard it,” she said. “When the explosion happened, everyone ran out. Later, we came back and were trying to pick up the injured.”
Army blocks medics
According to the eyewitnesses, the Ethiopian army blocked ambulances belonging to NGOs including Red Cross medics from reaching victims in the town which is about 25 kilometres North West of the regional capital, Mekelle.
A medical team which was dispatched from Mekelle Ayder Hospital was also stopped at check points and later detained for hours after they attempted to reach the scene via a different route, a health worker told Nation.Africa.
He added that the medics were forced to return to Mekelle despite showing a pass letter from the interim government.
“Several people have died because they couldn’t immediately get medical treatment,” an eyewitness said.
“Not far from where I live, Seven out of the total eight members of a family instantly died when airstrike hits their house” he added.
The airstrikes come a day after the Tigray Defence Forces (TDF) report major victories against allied Ethiopian and Eritrean forces.
It also comes at a time when vote-counting is under way following elections that went ahead without polling in the Tigray region and other restive parts of the country.
It is the first time PM Abiy is facing voters since ascending to power in 2018.
‘Soldiers not letting us go’
The reported air attack comes amid some of the fiercest fighting in the Tigray region since the conflict began in November as Ethiopian forces supported by those from neighbouring Eritrea pursue Tigray’s former leaders.
Reuters reported that Ethiopian military spokesperson Colonel Getnet Adane did not confirm or deny the incident. He said air attacks were a common military tactic and the force does not target civilians.
Martin Plaut, visiting senior fellow in the department of war studies at King’s College London, said the evidence suggested the Ethiopian air force was responsible.