Tigray forces say government attacked Ethiopia’s Mekelle, govt denies

NAIROBI, Oct 18 (Reuters) – Rebellious northern Ethiopian forces accused the government of launching air strikes on the capital of Tigray region on Monday, though the government denied the reports.

Tigrai TV, controlled by the northern region’s Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), said the attack on the city of Mekelle killed several civilians.

An aid worker and a doctor in the region also told Reuters there had been an assault on the city. A diplomat in Ethiopia shared pictures of what they said was the aftermath, including pools of blood and smashed windows.

All asked not to be named. Reuters could not confirm the authenticity of the images.

Ethiopia’s government spokesman, Legesse Tulu, denied launching any attack. “Why would the Ethiopian government attack its own city? Mekelle is an Ethiopian city,” he said.

“Terrorists are the ones who attack cities with innocent civilians in them, not government” Legesse added, referring to the TPLF.

Reuters was unable to verify any of the accounts in an area that is off-limits to journalists.

War erupted in Tigray in November between the Ethiopian military and the TPLF, the region’s dominant party.

Tigrayan forces were initially beaten back, but recaptured most of the region in July and pushed into the neighbouring Amhara and Afar regions, displacing hundreds of thousands more. read more

The TPLF says the government began a new offensive this month, though that has not been confirmed by the government.

Diplomats are worried that renewed fighting will further destabilize Ethiopia, a nation of 109 million people, and deepen hunger in Tigray and the surrounding regions.

A doctor in the region said they heard the first attack on Monday morning. “First I heard the sounds of jet and also an explosion from afar.

“Then in the afternoon there was another sound, which seemed closer. This one seemed like it happened inside the city,” the doctor said.

“#AbiyAhmed’s ‘Air Force’ sent its bomber jet to attack civilian targets in& outside #Mekelle,” TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda tweeted.

Reporting by Addis Ababa Newsroom; Editing by Alison Williams and Andrew Heavens

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