Ethiopia: Dozens reportedly killed and injured after airstrike on Tigray village

Dozens of people have been killed in Ethiopia’s Tigray region after an airstrike hit a busy market, according to witnesses.

Health workers said soldiers have blocked medical teams from travelling to the scene after the village of Togoga was struck.

The number of people killed has not been confirmed, but one doctor said “more than 80 civilian deaths” had been reported.

It 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.

Injured patients being treated at Mekelle’s Ayder hospital said a plane dropped a bomb on Togoga’s marketplace.

A nurse said the six patients include a two-year-old child with “abdominal trauma” and a six-year-old.

She added that a baby died on the way to hospital after the ambulance carrying the infant was blocked for two hours.

One medical worker said six ambulances carrying around 20 health workers had attempted to reach the wounded but soldiers stopped them at a checkpoint before sending them back to Mekelle.

“They told us we couldn’t go to Togoga. We stayed more than one hour at the checkpoint trying to negotiate, we had a letter from the health bureau – we showed them. But they said it was an order.”

Several more ambulances were later sent away, but one group of medical workers managed to access the site on Tuesday evening via a different route.

One woman, who said her husband and two-year-old daughter were injured in the strike, said the bomb hit the market at around 1pm on Tuesday.

“We didn’t see the plane but we heard it,” she said. “When the explosion happened, everyone ran out – after a time we came back and were trying to pick up the injured.”

Residents said the violence had flared in recent days north of the regional capital Mekelle.

Medical workers have treated around 40 wounded people, but estimate the number of injured is likely higher as some people fled after the attack.

Five patients were said to need emergency operations but the health workers were unable to evacuate them.

A doctor in Mekelle said: “We have been asking, but until now we didn’t get permission to go, so we don’t know how many people are dead.”

One Red Cross ambulance trying to reach injured people on Tuesday was shot at twice by Ethiopian soldiers, according to another doctor.

He said the soldiers held his team for 45 minutes before ordering them back to Mekelle.

“We are not allowed to go,” he said. “They told us whoever goes, they are helping the troops of the TPLF.”

The TPLF stands for Tigray People’s Liberation Front, the political party which governed the region until it was ousted by a federal government offensive in November.

The subsequent fighting has killed thousands, forcing more than two million people from their homes.

Witnesses have repeatedly accused Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers of looting and destroying health centres across the Tigray region and denying civilians access to care, while the United Nations has said all sides have been accused of abuses.

Commenting on the recent airstrike, European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said in Berlin: “The situation there is appalling.”

“Today a military airstrike has been producing a lot of casualties against the civilians,” he added.

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