Official: Ethiopia’s latest airstrike hits Tigray university

Ethiopian men who fled war in Tigray region, queue for wet food ration at the Um-Rakoba camp, on the Sudan-Ethiopia border in Al-Qadarif state, Sudan November 19, 2020. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 19 November 2020

Official: Ethiopia’s latest airstrike hits Tigray university

  • Official tells AP that the strike caused major damage to the facility
  • Ethiopia’s government has been fighting with the Tigray regional forces since Nov. 4

NAIROBI: A university official says the latest airstrike by Ethiopia’s military has struck the school in the capital of the defiant Tigray region and caused major damage, while the United States says neither side in the conflict is heeding calls for de-escalation.
The senior official described Thursday’s airstrike in an email shared with The Associated Press. It was not immediately clear if anyone was killed or wounded in the airstrike in Mekele.
“How on earth” can a government bombard its own people, the senior official asked. The AP is not naming the official because they could not be reached directly.
There was no immediate comment from Ethiopia’s government, which has been fighting with the Tigray regional forces since Nov. 4 after an attack on a military base there. Both sides have carried out airstrikes. Each regards the other as illegal, the result of a falling-out between Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the Tigray leaders who once dominated the country’s ruling coalition.
With communications to the region severed, no one knows how many people have been killed in the fighting, and verifying either side’s claims is challenging.
“At this point, neither party, from what we hear, is interested in mediation,” the top US diplomat to Africa, US Assistant Secretary of State Tibor Nagy, told reporters Thursday evening.
Nagy said of the airstrike: “From what you say, I certainly hope it’s not true.”
Ethiopia’s government has said it is marching in a final push to Mekele, the Tigray region’s capital, with the goal to arrest the ruling “clique” from the region’s Tigray People’s Liberation Front. The TPLF infuriated Abiy’s government when it objected to the pandemic-related postponement of national elections until next year and held its own election in September.
Now, heavy fighting continues in a heavily armed region of some 6 million people, a clash some observers have compared to an inter-state war at the heart of the strategic Horn of Africa.
With Abiy’s government rejecting urgent international calls for dialogue, a humanitarian disaster is unfolding as food, fuel and medical supplies run desperately short in the Tigray region. Roads are blocked and airports closed.
More than 30,000 refugees have fled to Sudan, and the fighting has moved close to nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea at camps in northern Tigray.
“Electricity continues to be cut off. Fuel for generators has run out. That leaves 96,000 Eritrean refugees in Ethiopia without clean water,” United Nations spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters.
Asked about efforts to open humanitarian corridors, the US ambassador to Ethiopia, Michael Raynor, told reporters that the TPLF “did not really engage on that possibility.”
The fighting threatens to suck in or destabilize Ethiopia’s neighbors, which include Sudan, Somalia and Eritrea, whose capital came under rocket attack from the TPLF over the weekend. Eritrea has remained largely silent while the TPLF accuses it of entering the conflict at Ethiopia’s request.
Nagy, the assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told reporters that the US has been in contact with Eritrean officials to urge their “continued restraint.”
“Internationalizing the conflict, that is one absolute danger that we are doing our best, the entire region is doing its best, to avoid,” he said.


Ethiopian PM says troops ordered to move on Tigray capital

Updated 27 min 17 sec ago

Ethiopian PM says troops ordered to move on Tigray capital

NAIROBI, Kenya: Ethiopia’s prime minister says the army has been ordered to move on the embattled Tigray capital after his 72-hour ultimatum for Tigray leaders to surrender ended, and he warns residents to “stay indoors.”
The statement Thursday by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office means tanks and other weaponry can now close in on the city of some half-million people. His government has warned of “no mercy” if residents don’t move away from the Tigray leaders in time.
The new statement asserts that thousands of Tigray militia and special forces surrendered during the 72-hour period. “We will take utmost care to protect civilians,” it says.
Communications remain severed to Tigray, making it difficult to verify claims.
THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. AP’s earlier story follows below:
The United Nations says shortages have become “very critical” in Ethiopia’s embattled Tigray region as its population of 6 million remains sealed off and its capital is under threat of attack by Ethiopian forces seeking to arrest the regional leaders.
Fuel and cash are running out, more than 1 million people are now estimated to be displaced and food for nearly 100,000 refugees from Eritrea will be gone in a week, according to a new report released overnight. And more than 600,000 people who rely on monthly food rations haven’t received them this month.
Travel blockages are so dire that even within the Tigray capital, Mekele, the UN World Food Program cannot obtain access to transport food from its warehouses there.
Communications and travel links remain severed with the Tigray region since the deadly conflict broke out on Nov. 4, and now Human Rights Watch is warning that “actions that deliberately impede relief supplies” violate international humanitarian law.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s 72-hour ultimatum for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front leaders to surrender ended Wednesday night. His government has said Mekele is surrounded.
The UN has reported people fleeing the city. Abiy’s government had warned them of “no mercy” if residents didn’t move away from the TPLF leaders who are accused of hiding among the population.
But with communications cut, it’s not clear how many people in Mekele received the warnings. The alarmed international community is calling for immediate de-escalation, dialogue and humanitarian access.
Abiy on Wednesday, however, rejected international “interference.”