Witnesses said the target of Tuesday’s attack was a busy market in Togoga, a village in Tigray, northern Ethiopia.
According to reports, dozens of people were killed after an air strike on a busy market in Togoga, a village in Tigray, northern Ethiopia, on Tuesday. The day before, local residents said that fighting broke out north of Mekle, the capital of the region.
A woman told Reuters that the bomb was placed on the market at about 1 pm (10:00 GMT) and her husband and two-year-old daughter were injured in the attack.
“We didn’t see the plane, but we heard it,” she said. “Everyone ran away when the explosion happened. Later, we came back and tried to pick up the wounded.”
Two doctors and a nurse in Mekelle told the Associated Press (AP) that they could not confirm how many people were killed, but a doctor said that health workers at the scene had reported “more than 80 civilian deaths.”
Fearing retaliation, health workers requested anonymity.
According to reports, the airstrike occurred during the fiercest fighting in the Tigray area since the beginning of the conflict in November. The Ethiopian army pursued the former leader of Tigray with the support of neighboring Eritrea.
Reuters reported that the Ethiopian military spokesman, Colonel Gaynet Adane, did not confirm or deny the incident. He said that air strikes are a common military tactic and troops are not directed at civilians.
Three other health workers told Reuters that the Ethiopian military was preventing ambulances from reaching the scene.
Injured patients treated at Ayder Hospital in Mekele told health workers that a plane dropped a bomb on the market in Togoga.
A nurse at the hospital said the injured included a two-year-old child with “abdominal trauma” and a six-year-old child. She added that an ambulance carrying the injured baby to Mekle was blocked for two hours and the baby died on the way.
Salsay Woyane Tigray from Togo, Canada, the head of opposition foreign affairs Hailu Kebede told the Associated Press that an eyewitness who fled counted more than 30 bodies, and other witnesses reported that more than 50 people were killed.
“This is terrible,” said an official of an international aid organization, who told the Associated Press that he had spoken to colleagues and others on the spot.
“We don’t know if these jets are from Ethiopia or Eritrea. They are still searching for bodies with their hands. More than 50 people have been killed, maybe more.”
Witnesses said several more ambulances were turned back later in the day and Wednesday morning, but a group of medical staff arrived at the scene via different routes on Tuesday night.
“We have been asking, but until now we have not received permission, so we don’t know how many people have died,” said a Merkel doctor.
Another doctor said that the Red Cross ambulance he was riding in on Tuesday tried to reach the scene and was shot twice by Ethiopian soldiers. They controlled his team for 45 minutes and then ordered them to return to Merkel.
“We are not allowed to go,” he said. “They told us that no matter who goes, they are helping the TPLF troops.”
TPLF refers to the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, which ruled Tigray until it was overthrown by a federal offensive in November. The ensuing fighting has caused thousands of deaths and more than 2 million people have been forced to leave their homes.
Although the United Nations stated that all parties have been accused of abuse of power, witnesses have repeatedly accused Ethiopian and Eritrean soldiers of looting and destroying medical centers in Tigray and depriving civilians of access to medical services.
This month, humanitarian agencies warned that 350,000 people in Tigray are facing famine. Rescuers have stated that they have repeatedly been denied entry to several areas of the area by soldiers.
The government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed stated that it almost defeated the insurgents. But forces loyal to the TPLF recently announced an offensive in parts of Tigray and achieved a series of victories.