Nairobi – Tigrayan rebels claimed on Saturday that dozens of people had been killed in a drone strike on a camp for people displaced by the war in northern Ethiopia.
Getachew Reda, spokesperson for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), said on Twitter that an attack on the camp in the small town of Dedebit in northwestern Tigray “has claimed the lives of 56 innocent civilians so far”.
The report could not be independently verified and there was no immediate response to requests for comment from Ethiopian government officials.
However, a senior official at the main hospital in Tigray’s capital Mekele told AFP that the hospital in the town of Shire where the victims were taken had reported 55 people dead and 126 injured.
Getachew did not say when the reported strike occurred.
The TPLF has been fighting forces loyal to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed since November 2020 in a brutal conflict that has killed thousands of people and created a deep humanitarian crisis.
TPLF fighters withdrew to their stronghold in Tigray at the end of December in the face of a military offensive that saw government forces retake a string of strategic towns.
There has been something of a lull in fighting since the TPLF retreat, although the rebels accuse the government of continuing to carry out deadly drone attacks on Tigray, the northernmost region of Ethiopia.
The United Nations reported this week that three Eritrean refugees including two children had been killed in an air strike on the Mai Aini refugee camp in Tigray on Wednesday.
UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said after the Mai Aini attack that refugees “should never be a target”.
“While UNHCR continues to gather and corroborate details on the events, I reiterate UNHCR’s call on all parties to the conflict to respect the rights of all civilians, including refugees.”
Tigray is under what the UN has called a de facto blockade that is preventing desperately needed supplies from reaching its six million people.
The UN has said 400 000 people there are suffering famine-like conditions.
Access to Tigray is restricted and the region remains under a communications blackout, making it difficult to verify battlefield claims.
Picture: Getty Images