Nairobi – The killing of three Doctors Without Borders (MSF) personnel in Ethiopia’s war-hit Tigray region last June was “intentional” and not a case of crossfire, the medical charity said on Thursday.
The bodies of three MSF staff – a Spaniard and two Ethiopians – were found next to their burnt and bullet-ridden car in the northern region, where conflict has been raging for more than a year.
In a preliminary internal review of the killings, MSF said the trio had been driving south of Abi Adi to assist victims of the fighting.
“Just over an hour into the journey, their car stopped. Their bodies were later found at distances of 100-400 metres (yards) from the car and their injuries showed that each suffered multiple close-range gunshot wounds,” said Paula Gil, the head of MSF Spain.
“This information confirms that the attack was not consistent with crossfire injuries, but instead was an intentional killing of three humanitarian aid workers.”
Their vehicle was “shot multiple times and extensively burnt” despite being well identified with the MSF logo and two flags, Gil said.
MSF had been “making every possible effort to understand what had happened” to their workers but at this stage did not know who was responsible for their murder.
The charity expressed concern about the government’s stance toward humanitarian organisations working in Tigray “that have had a direct impact on their safety and security.”
In July, a senior government official accused some aid groups of “arming the other side”, meaning the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), the rebels fighting the federal army and its allies, but gave no details.
“In Ethiopia, our teams have been regularly subjected to harassment, serious threats and detentions,” Gil said.
MSF suspended its operations in parts of Tigray following the killings, and later was barred from working in other parts of Ethiopia affected by the conflict.
The suspension was lifted in October but security and logistical hurdles had prevented their work returning to full capacity.
In November 2020 Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray in response to what he called attacks by the TPLF on federal army camps.
The conflict has left thousands dead and Tigray remains under what the United Nations calls a de-facto aid blockade that has prevented food, medicine and other essentials from entering the region.
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