56 dead in Ethiopian airstrike on Tigray IDP camp: aid workers

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An Ethiopian airstrike on a camp for internally displaced people in northern Tigray has claimed at least 56 lives and injured scores of others, aid workers told Reuters on Saturday.

Military spokesman Col. Getnet Adane and government spokesman Legesse Tulu did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The government has previously denied targeting civilians in the 14-month conflict with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

The two aid workers, who asked not to be named because they are not authorized to speak to the media, said the death toll has been confirmed by local authorities.

Aid workers sent Reuters photos they said they took of injured in hospital, including many children.

The strike struck the camp in the northwestern town of Dedebit near the border with Eritrea late Friday evening, aid workers said.

One of the aid workers, who visited Shire Shul General Hospital where the injured were taken for treatment, said the camp was hosting many elderly women and children.

“They told me the bombs arrived at midnight. It was pitch dark and they could not escape,” the aid worker said.

Before the latest strike, at least 146 people have been killed and 213 injured in airstrikes in Tigray since October 18, according to a document prepared by aid agencies and shared with Reuters this week.

The war in the north has claimed thousands of lives and left hundreds of thousands of others facing famine in Tigray, which the United Nations says is a de facto blockade.

Fighting erupted when Abiy sent troops to Tigray in November 2020 after months of simmering tensions with his ruling TPLF party, accusing his fighters of attacking federal army camps.

He declared an early victory but rebel fighters retaliated, retaking most of Tigray in late June and pushing into neighboring areas of Amhara and Afar.

The TPLF claimed it was also nearly 200 kilometers (125 miles) from Addis Ababa in November, prompting alarmed foreign nations to tell their citizens to leave.

But at the end of December, they announced a withdrawal to Tigray after the government took over several strategic towns on the road to the capital, including the UNESCO heritage site Lalibela.

Ethiopia declares amnesty for dialogue

In a surprise gesture, the Ethiopian government announced on Friday that it was pardoning a number of prominent political prisoners, including members of the TPLF, in an attempt to promote “national dialogue”.

It comes amid a lull in the brutal 14-month conflict after a dramatic change in battlefield fortunes late last year saw government forces retake a series of key towns and the TPLF withdraw to his stronghold in Tigray.

“The key to lasting unity is dialogue. Ethiopia will make all sacrifices to this end,” the government’s communication service said in a statement relayed by Agence France-Presse (AFP) announcing the amnesty. .

“Its aim is to pave the way for a lasting solution to Ethiopia’s problems in a peaceful and non-violent manner … especially with the aim of making the inclusive national dialogue a success.”

It listed several prominent members of the TPLF as well as opposition leaders from the Oromo ethnic group, the largest in Ethiopia, and the Amhara. It was not immediately clear how many of those who had received amnesty had already been released.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate who reportedly went to the front lines in November to lead his troops, also called for “national reconciliation” and “unity” in a statement released as he Ethiopia celebrated Orthodox Christmas.

The pardons coincided with a mission to Ethiopia by U.S. envoy Jeffrey Feltman, who is pushing for talks to end a conflict that has threatened to tear Africa’s second most populous state apart and destabilize the region. Horn of Africa.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement on Twitter that he welcomed the announcement of the amnesty.

“I will remain actively engaged in helping Ethiopia end the fighting and restore peace and stability,” he added.

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