‘Over 80 civilians’ killed in airstrike at Ethiopia’s busy market
Published: 11:08 AM, 24 June 2021 Updated: 11:09 AM, 24 June 2021
Dozens of people were killed as an airstrike hit a busy market in the town of Togoga in Ethiopia's Tigray region on Tuesday, according to health workers.
Two doctors and a nurse in Tigray’s regional capital Mekele, told The Associated Press (AP) they were unable to confirm how many people were killed, but one doctor said health workers at the scene reported "more than 80 civilian deaths.”
The health workers spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The alleged airstrike comes amid some of the fiercest fighting in the Tigray region since the conflict began in November as Ethiopian forces supported by those from neighboring Eritrea pursue Tigray’s former leaders.
A spokesperson for Ethiopia’s prime minister did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Wounded patients being treated at Mekele’s Ayder hospital told health workers that a plane dropped a bomb on Togoga’s marketplace.
The six patients included a 2-year-old child with "abdominal trauma” and a 6-year-old, the nurse said. An ambulance carrying a wounded baby to Mekele was blocked for two hours and the baby died on the way, the nurse added.
Hailu Kebede, foreign affairs head for the Salsay Woyane Tigray opposition party and who comes from Togoga, told the AP that one fleeing witness to the attack had counted more than 30 bodies and other witnesses were reporting more than 50 people killed.
On Tuesday afternoon, a convoy of ambulances attempting to reach Togoga, about 25 kilometers (15 miles) west of Mekele, was turned back by soldiers near Tukul, the health workers said.
Several more ambulances were turned back later in the day and on Wednesday morning, but one group of medical workers reached the site on Tuesday evening via a different route. Those medical workers were treating 40 wounded people but told colleagues in Mekele that the number of wounded is likely higher as some people fled after the attack. Five of the wounded patients were said to need emergency operations, but the health workers were unable to evacuate them.
"We have been asking, but until now we didn’t get permission to go, so we don’t know how many people are dead,” said one of the doctors in Mekele.
Another doctor said the Red Cross ambulance he was traveling in on Tuesday while trying to reach the scene was shot at twice by Ethiopian soldiers, who held his team for 45 minutes before ordering them back to Mekele.