An airstrike in Ethiopia’s Tigre region killed 56 people and injured 30, including children, at a camp for displaced people, two aid workers told Reuters on Saturday, citing local officials and eyewitness accounts.
Military spokesman Colonel Garnett Adane and government spokesman Legacy Tulu did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The government has previously denied targeting civilians in a 14-month conflict with rebel Baghayan forces.
The strike occurred late Friday in the city of Dedebit, northwest of the region near the border with Eritrea, said aid workers, who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the media.
Earlier on Friday, the government freed several opposition leaders from prison and said it would initiate talks with political opponents to promote reconciliation.
Both aid workers said local officials had confirmed the death toll. Aid workers sent to Reuters photos they said had taken of the wounded, including several children, at the hospital.
One of the aid workers, who visited the Shire Suhul General Hospital, where the injured were brought for treatment, said the camp hosts many old women and children.
The aid worker said, “They told me the bombs had come at midnight. It was completely dark, and they could not escape.”
Ethiopian federal troops go to war with rebel Tigreyan forces in November 2020. Since the start of the war, Reuters has reported atrocities by all sides, which the fighting parties have denied.
One of the injured in Friday’s strike, 75-year-old Asifa Gebrehavoria, burst into tears remembering the death of her friend, one of the aid workers said. He was being treated for injuries to his left leg and hand.
Fighting had forced Asifa out of her home and now airstrikes had destroyed the camp, where even though she was facing hunger, she at least had shelter, she told the aid worker. He had arrived at a camp for displaced people from the border town of Humera.
At least 146 people have been killed and 213 injured in airstrikes in Tigre since October 18, before the latest attack, according to a document prepared by aid agencies and shared with Reuters this week.
In Friday’s reconciliation move, the government freed opposition leaders from several ethnic groups. They included some leaders of the Tigre People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the party that fought Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s central government.
The TPLF cast doubt on Abiy’s call for national reconciliation.
TPLF spokesman Getachev Reda tweeted Friday: “His routine of refusing medicine to homeless children and sending drones targeting civilians is contrary to his self-righteous claims.”
The TPLF accuses federal officials of imposing aid blockades in the region, leading to hunger and shortages of essentials like fuel and medicines. The government refuses to block the passage of the aid convoy.