ADDIS ABABA, June 24 (Reuters) – The variety of civilians killed in an air strike in Ethiopia’s Tigray area has risen to 51 with 33 individuals nonetheless unaccounted for, a well being official concerned within the response mentioned, disputing the military’s account that the victims had been combatants.
The official, who requested to not be recognized, spoke on Thursday as medical employees and support companies had been nonetheless scrambling to evacuate dozens of significantly injured sufferers from the city of Togoga to the regional capital Mekelle, about 25 km to the southeast, two days after the bombing.
He mentioned at the very least 68 sufferers had reached hospitals in Mekelle however the complete quantity injured was doubtless greater than 100.
Nathalia Estevam Fraga, head of the Worldwide Committee of the Crimson Cross (ICRC) in Mekelle, mentioned getting wounded sufferers to a surgical theatre “was a matter of life and dying” for a few of them.
The assault was one of many deadliest reported incidents in months in a area the place the federal government had mentioned most main combating ended final 12 months. Residents have reported elevated clashes this week in cities north of regional capital Mekelle.
Within the navy’s first account of the incident, Colonel Getnet Adane, Ethiopia’s navy spokesman, mentioned solely combatants, not civilians, had been hit. He mentioned the complete dying toll was nonetheless being gathered.
Getnet informed Reuters that the combatants had been wearing civilian garments and had gathered within the city to commemorate the anniversary of the bombing of one other city in Tigray, Hawzen, in 1988. That assault, by Ethiopia’s then-ruling Communist leaders, killed lots of of individuals and is broadly commemorated in Tigray.
Nonetheless, the well being official concerned within the response mentioned it was clear the victims weren’t combatants: “Primarily based on eye witnesses and the well being groups we despatched, the lifeless are civilians,” the official mentioned. “It was in the course of city and on market day.”
A resident of the city informed Reuters on Wednesday that the strike hit a market at round 1 p.m. That resident additionally mentioned that her 2-year-old daughter had been injured within the assault.
The navy has been battling forces loyal to the Tigray Individuals’s Liberation Entrance (TPLF), the area’s former ruling get together, since November. Preventing has displaced 2 million individuals, and the United Nations has warned of famine circumstances in components of the area.
The air strike occurred as Ethiopian officers counted ballots from nationwide and regional parliamentary elections held this week in seven of the nation’s 10 areas.
No voting was held in Tigray, and safety considerations and issues with poll papers additionally delayed voting in two different areas.
Requested about youngsters injured in Tuesday’s assault, Getnet mentioned the TPLF makes use of propaganda and is thought for faking accidents. He additionally mentioned that docs quoted by the media should not “actual docs”.
A TPLF spokesman couldn’t instantly be reached for remark. Beforehand, Getnet had declined to verify or deny the incident, saying air strikes had been a typical navy tactic and that authorities forces don’t goal civilians.
Writing by Maggie Fick and Duncan Miriri
Modifying by Peter Graff
Our Requirements: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.