New airstrikes hit capital of Ethiopia's Tigray region

AP , Friday 22 Oct 2021

Ethiopia's government says it has again carried out airstrikes in the capital of the country's Tigray region. It's the fourth time this week as a nearly year-long war intensifies.

People are seen at the scene of an airstrike in Mekele
File Photo: People are seen in front of clouds of black smoke from fires in the aftermath at the scene of an airstrike in Mekele, the capital of the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia Wednesday, Oct. 20, 2021. New airstrikes have hit Mekele, residents said Wednesday, as Ethiopia s government said it was targeting facilities to make and repair weapons, which a spokesman for the rival Tigray forces denied. AP

Government spokesman Legesse Tulu tells The Associated Press that Friday's strikes targeted a former military training center near Mekele that's now serving as a ``battle network hub'' for the rival Tigray forces.

Residents in Mekele confirmed the strikes. One said they occurred near Mekele University. There was no immediate information on any casualties.

Spokesmen for the Tigray forces have denied that sites targeted earlier this week were used in relation to the fighting. Health workers and other residents have said at least three children have been killed and more than a dozen people injured.

Thousands of people have been killed since November, when a political falling-out between the Tigray forces who long dominated the national government and the current administration of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed erupted in fighting.

Tigray's 6 million people are now under a government blockade, while Tigray forces in recent months have taken the fighting into the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions. The United Nations says more than 2 million people are now displaced.

On Thursday, Ethiopia's government claimed to a successful strike against another military base used by the Tigray forces near Mekele, but Tigray forces spokesman Getachew Reda asserted that air defenses prevented the plane from hitting targets in the city.

An airstrike on Wednesday hit an industrial compound the government said was used by the Tigray forces to repair weapons. A Tigray spokesman denied the site had military significance and said it was used to produce cars and tractors.

Two other airstrikes hit the city on Monday.

Tigray remains under a communications blackout, making it difficult to verify claims.

The strikes came amid reports of renewed heavy fighting in Amhara, despite repeated international calls for a cease-fire in the war.

On Wednesday, spokesman Getachew claimed advances had put the government-held towns of Dessie and Kombolcha ``within artillery range,'' prompting alarm.

Dessie hosts a large number of displaced people who have fled fighting further north.

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