- Friday strike hits university campus, humanitarian sources say
- Fourth day of aerial bombardment in the city of Mekelle
- Air campaign comes amid heavy fighting in Amhara region
- Almost a year of war has claimed thousands of lives
- Thousands of people fleeing the fighting in Amhara
ADDIS ABABA, October 22 (Reuters) – The Ethiopian government launched an airstrike on the capital of the northern Tigray region on Friday, and residents of a town in neighboring Amhara region said residents were fleeing the intensification of the fighting.
Humanitarian sources and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF) which controls the northern region said the airstrike hit a university in the regional capital Mekelle. Government spokesman Legesse Tulu said he hit a former military base now occupied by TPLF fighters, and denied the university was hit.
Reuters was unable to independently confirm either account. Tigrai TV, controlled by the TPLF, reported that 11 civilians were injured in the strike, at least on the fourth day that Mekelle was targeted this week.
Humanitarian sources said a UN plane was forced to put an end to a planned landing in Mekelle due to the airstrike. Critics of the government accused him of trying to cut off access to Tigray, which he denies.
“THE WHOLE CITY PANIC”
The government has stepped up airstrikes on the capital of Tigray as fighting escalates in Amhara, a neighboring region where the TPLF has seized territory that the government and armed groups allied with Amhara are trying to reclaim.
Residents of Dessie, a large town in Amhara, told Reuters people were fleeing, a day after a TPLF spokesman said his forces were within artillery range of the town.
“The whole town is panicking,” said one resident, adding people who might be leaving. He said he could hear the sound of heavy gunfire Thursday evening and into the morning, and that the price of the bus to the capital Addis Ababa, about 240 miles (385 km) to the south, had more than six-fold.
There are now more than 500,000 internally displaced people in the Amhara region, Atalel Abuhay, communications director of the National Commission for Disaster Risk Management, told Reuters.
Seid Assefa, a local official working at a coordination center for displaced people in Dessie, said 250 people fled fighting in the northern Girana region this week.
“We now have a total of 900 (displaced people) here and we finished our food stocks three days ago.”
Leul Mesfin, medical director of Dessie Hospital, told Reuters that two girls and an adult died this week at his facility from injuries from artillery fire in the town of Wuchale, which the government and the TPLF have described it as the scene of heavy fighting. last week.
The nearly year-long conflict between the government and TPLF-allied forces has claimed thousands of lives and displaced more than 2 million people.
The TPLF dominated Ethiopian politics for decades as the most powerful group in a multi-ethnic coalition, but clashed with the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed who took power in 2018. Abiy sent government troops central who drove the TPLF out of Mekelle the last time. year. But forces allied with the TPLF launched a counterattack this year, retaking Mekelle and almost all of Tigray, and seizing entire swathes of Amhara.
Reporting by Addis Ababa Newsroom Additional reporting and writing by Maggie Fick and Ayenat Mersie in Nairobi; Editing by John Stonestreet, Peter Graff and Alex Richardson
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