Men use mobile phones to try to reach relatives as Red Cross ambulances are seen on stand by for authorisation to travel to Togoga, a village about 20km west of Mekele, where an alleged airstrike hit a market leaving an unknown number of casualties, from the Ayder referral hospital in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia, on June 23, 2021 AFP
At least 64 people were killed and 180 injured in an Ethiopian air strike on a market in the war-torn Tigray region, a local health officer told AFP Thursday.
"The air strike was in the market area, so many, many people were injured," said Mulu Atsbaha, an advisor to the Tigray regional administration on maternal and child health.
The strike on Tuesday in Togoga town also left 180 injured, Mulu added.
He said the toll had been gathered from residents of Togoga town, 30 kilometres (18 miles) north-west of the regional capital Mekele, and "confirmed with local leaders".
Ethiopia's army spokesman said Thursday that the military carried out the attack on Togoga, but said rebel fighters were the target.
"We do not accept that this operation targeted civilians," Colonel Getnet Adane told AFP, insisting that those injured or killed were fighters "in civilian clothes".
But survivors and health workers described aerial explosions striking a busy market at the peak of trading, killing and injuring dozens, including children.
The United Nations has called for an urgent investigation into the strike.
The attack came as vote counting was underway following Monday's national elections in Ethiopia. However, the conflict in Tigray meant no vote was held there, and the region has seen an upsurge in fighting in recent days.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to Tigray in November to oust the dissident regional leadership, promising a swift victory.
But nearly eight months later, fighting continues, which has triggered a humanitarian crisis with the UN warning 350,000 people are on the brink of famine.