International Rescue Committee says employee killed in Ethiopia's Tigray

AFP , Saturday 15 Oct 2022

The International Rescue Committee said Saturday one of its aid workers was among three civilians killed in an attack in Tigray where Ethiopian and Eritrean forces have launched an offensive.

Members of the Tigrayan community in South Africa
Members of the Tigrayan community protest against the conflict between Ethiopia and Tigray rebels in Ethiopia s Tigray region, outside the the United Arab Emirates embassy in Pretoria, South Africa, Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2022. AP


The attack occurred in Shire, a city in northwest Tigray, that has been bombarded for several days in a joint push against rebels from the war-torn region, humanitarian and diplomatic sources say.

IRC, a US-based organisation that helps people in humanitarian crises, said one of its employees "died from injuries sustained during an attack" on Friday while delivering aid to women and children.

"Another IRC staff member was also injured in the attack, and two other civilians were reportedly killed and three injured as a result of the incident," IRC said.

"Aid workers and civilians should never be a target."

Shire and its 100,000 inhabitants had been "subjected to continuous heavy artillery and air strikes all this week" which has caused casualties and property damage, a humanitarian worker in the city told AFP.

Civilians started fleeing the city in droves on Friday, the source added on condition of anonymity.

The upsurge in violence and reports of civilian casualties in Shire has alarmed the international community, which has been pushing both sides to stop fighting and negotiate at peace talks led by the African Union (AU).

"Horrified by the reports of continuous violence, including targeting of civilians, in #Shire #Tigray," EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell wrote on Twitter on Saturday.

"Genuine peace efforts do not amount to increasing military offensives nor to provocation. Respecting international law is not an option -- it is an obligation for all."

Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US was "deeply concerned over reports of increasing violence, loss of life, indiscriminate targeting of civilians, and destruction in the conflict in northern Ethiopia, particularly around Shire".

Diplomatic push

The fighting around Shire comes as US special envoy Mike Hammer arrived in Addis Ababa to push for an end to nearly two years of war between Ethiopia and its allies and rebels from Tigray.

International efforts have intensified to try to bring peace to northern Ethiopia after fighting resumed in late August, rupturing a truce and halting aid into stricken Tigray.

Both Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government and the Tigrayan authorities have accepted an AU invitation to sit down at the negotiating table.

But talks scheduled to start last weekend in South Africa failed to take place, with diplomats suggesting logistical issues were partly to blame.

The conflict erupted in November 2020 when Abiy -- a Nobel Peace Prize winner -- sent troops to topple the Tigray People's Liberation Front, the ruling party in Tigray he accused of staging attacks on army camps.

Unknown numbers have been killed in the war which has unleashed a humanitarian disaster in northern Ethiopia, with more than two million people forced from their homes and hundreds of thousands close to famine, the UN says.

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