NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) – The Ethiopian military struck a target near the capital of the Tigray region on Thursday, a government spokesperson said on the third day this week of airstrikes as fighting escalates after nearly a year of war.
Thousands of people have been killed since November in the conflict between the Tigray forces that once dominated the national government against the current government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize. Despite international calls for a ceasefire fire and the threat of new sanctions, there is no end in sight.
The new airstrikes targeted a former military training center near the town of Mekele which is currently used as a base by Tigray forces, spokesman Legesse Tulu told The Associated Press. He would not say how many strikes were carried out.
There had been no immediate news of casualties.
Three residents of Mekele said they heard heavy anti-aircraft fire as the plane approached the town.
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“We are investigating where the bomb was dropped,” Nahusenay Belay, a spokesperson for Tigray, told the AP. He said the plane was still over the city an hour later.
Tigray Forces spokesman Getachew Reda said in a tweet that “our air defense forces have so far succeeded in protecting our people” despite three attempts by the air force to strike targets . In a separate statement released by Tigray-affiliated broadcaster Dimtsi Weyane, he said “we are going to shorten this war and make such airstrikes impossible”.
An airstrike on Wednesday struck an industrial complex in Mekele, injuring at least 14 people. The government said it was targeting Mesfin Industrial Engineering, which it said was used by Tigray forces to manufacture and repair weapons.
Tigray spokesman Nahusenay denied the site has military significance and said it was used to produce civilian cars and tractors. He claimed that the airstrike also damaged two medical centers. Two more airstrikes hit the city on Monday, one of which killed three children, residents said.
The Tigray remains subject to a communication failure, which makes it difficult to verify the claims. The region is also subject to a government-imposed blockade, with almost no delivery of food, medicine or fuel, as the Ethiopian government fears that such support will benefit Tigray forces.
The area had not seen airstrikes since June, when the Ethiopian military struck a bustling market not far from Mekele and killed at least 64 people.
Days later, Tigray forces recaptured much of the region at a dramatic turn in the war and Ethiopian forces withdrew. Since then, Tigray forces have entered the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar, and the Ethiopian government has urged all capable citizens to go to war.
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