Why Ethiopian military bombed Mekelle, Tigray region?
NAIROBI, Kenya - For the first time after several hours, Ethiopia has admitted launching an airstrike in Mekelle, the regional administrative capital of the Tigray region, which left at least three children dead and several others critically injured.
State-run FANA said the attacks had targeted rebels' communications and weapons facilities. Monday's airstrike was the first to be carried out in the region in the current operation dubbed "Final Offensive" which was launched by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
But media controlled by the Tigray Defense Forces [TDF] said three civilians had been killed. The rebel group is at war with Ethiopia's federal government.
Initially, the government denied the allegations it had struck targets in Tigray's capital, Mekelle. Monday is usually a market day in Mekelle, a town that has witnessed clashes between TDF and Ethiopia National Defense Forces [ENDF].
"Why would the Ethiopian government attack its own city? Mekelle is an Ethiopian city," government spokesman Legesse Tulu asked.
Ethiopia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs went on to accuse the TDF of killing at least 30 civilians in recent attacks in Amhara and Afar regional states, which both border Tigray.
"Terrorists are the ones who attack cities with innocent civilians in them, not the government," Mr. Legesse added as quoted by the BBC.
But hours afterward, state media said it had carried out successful strikes with the aim of preventing civilian casualties. The TDF still says this is not the case, accusing the government of deliberately carrying out two strikes on market day.
Meanwhile, the TDF which regards itself as the legitimate authority in Tigray has not responded to the allegations its forces were behind the deaths of many civilians. It is difficult to independently confirm details as there is a communications blackout in the region.
The Ethiopian army took control of most of the northern region of Tigray in November 2020, after TPLF forces seized a military base.
Since then, the 11-month conflict has caused a humanitarian crisis, with the United Nations warning in July that about 400,000 people were living in famine-like conditions in Tigray.
Thousands of people have been killed in the conflict, and another two million have been forced to flee their homes. In June 2021, the rebels recaptured Tigray in a surprise attack and then moved into parts of neighboring regions like Amhara.