An airstrike has hit a busy market in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray village of Togoga, according to health workers.
The officials, who said the strike occurred on Tuesday, told the Associated Press that soldiers blocked medical teams from traveling to the scene.
Dozens of people were killed, they and a former resident said, citing witnesses.
Two doctors and a nurse in Tigray’s regional capital, Mekele, told The AP they were unable to confirm how many people were killed, but one doctor said health workers at the scene reported “more than eighty civilian deaths.” The health workers spoke on 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 military spokesman and the spokeswoman for Ethiopia’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, 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, almost 60 kilometres (37 miles) away by road, 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 thirty bodies and other witnesses were reporting more than fifty people killed. Many more were said to be wounded in the remote village that’s linked to Mekele in part by challenging stretches of dirt roads.
“It was horrific,” said a staffer with an international aid group who told the AP he had spoken with a colleague and others at the scene. “We don’t know if the jets were coming from Ethiopia or Eritrea. They are still looking for bodies by hand. More than fifty people were killed, maybe more.”
On Tuesday afternoon, a convoy of ambulances attempting to reach Togoga, about 25 kilometres (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 forty 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.