Ethiopian Air Force accounts for 304 civilian deaths, 373 injuries in Tigray since December

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Tigray Peoples Liberation Front fighters react to people from a truck as they arrive in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia.
Tigray Peoples Liberation Front fighters react to people from a truck as they arrive in Mekele, the capital of Tigray region, Ethiopia.
  • Aerial bombardments by the Ethiopian Air Force in Tigray have claimed 304 lives and injured 373 people.
  • The youngest person killed in the air strikes was a one-year-old infant.
  • Some of the places attacked were a marketplace and a hotel in Alamata town, as well as a school for refugees.

Editor's Note: This story contains details that may upset sensitive readers.

At least 300 people have died and more than 350 have been injured between November last year and February this year in multiple airstrikes carried out by the Ethiopian Air Force (ETAF) in Tigray and the Afar region, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said.

"The Office has recorded 304 killings, and injuries to 373 people, resulting from aerial bombardments during the reporting period," said Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Some of the places that attacked include a marketplace, a hotel in Alamata town, and a school for refugees. 

December recorded the highest number of casualties.

READ | Displaced people survive by eating grass amid discrimination in Mozambique

"In separate incidents in December 2021, some 120 civilians were reportedly killed and 145 were injured in the Tigray region, including when a market and hotel in Alamata town were hit by ETAF air attacks. In January 2022, two air raids carried out in Tigray by the ETAF hit the Mai-Aini refugee camp and the Dedebit site for internally displaced people. These attacks killed 60 people and injured 169," said Bachelet.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) interviewed some survivors of the attacks on civilians.

A 70-year-old male interviewee said: "When the first strike happened, I was asleep with my family, I felt like fire hit us. I stood up, not knowing what was happening. Before I realised what was happening, the second strike happened, and then the third. At first, I thought fighting had broken out in the camp. But then I could see bodies were scattered, heads separated from one another. I realised this wasn't fighting," he said.

A baby was one of the victims of the 7 January attack inside the Dedebit elementary school compound.

"Human Rights Watch obtained a list compiled by the displaced community with the names of 53 people killed immediately, including 32 females and 21 males. Fifteen of those killed were children, the youngest a year old, and 18 were over 50," the organisation said.

According to Bachelet, "... almost two million pupils were affected by the total or partial destruction of schools."

Tigrayan civilians are on the receiving end of violence from both warring factions of the conflict.

The UNHCR documented 306 rape incidents by Tigrayan forces in the Amhara region between 1 November and 5 December 2021. Most of the reported survivors were women; a small number were men. Most survivors have not received any form of support since their ordeal.

The HRW has since called on all warring parties to respect international humanitarian law, immediately prevent, and stop unlawful attacks against civilians, and facilitate unhindered humanitarian access in areas under their control.

The News24 Africa Desk is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation. The stories produced through the Africa Desk and the opinions and statements that may be contained herein do not reflect those of the Hanns Seidel Foundation.

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