Written by Staff Writer by Alysha Tsuji, CNN
Ethiopia’s Tigray region has been hit by airstrikes, according to an eyewitness, local fighters and one local official.
It is the latest in a series of strikes carried out against rebel areas in Ethiopia’s northeast, south and west.
The army said those conducting the airstrikes had earlier been involved in attacks against government bases in a area near Eritrea that borders north-eastern Ethiopia.
“The drone also swept a group of Tigray’s troops (Shomor cattle herders) in the highland while in procession to a grazing area for their cattle in Abonersba,” Lt. Col. Mulugeta said.
“No fatalities, but a number of cows and cows were severely injured and the troops were separated from the herd to treat their wounds.”
The witness, a Tigrayan villager, said government forces had announced the airstrikes to a local meeting of thousands of Tigrayan herders who had gathered to attend the Saturday’s traditional Amhara “Ngaragingwaa” festival.
“My brother lives in Tigray with his family. So we decided to gather with all of them,” the witness said. “On Saturday morning, they left the hotel where they were staying and went to a nearby community hall. Soon afterwards, all of a sudden, we heard a big explosion.
“The center hit and all the area surrounding it was littered with wreckage. We have been told that around 14 people have been killed and several more injured. More than 50 other people also went missing and are still missing.”
The eyewitness said officials at the event tried to intervene, but had been unable to locate any victims.
“We are still looking for my brother,” he said. “The injured are being treated in the government-built medical facilities. But we believe their chances of survival are very low.”
The fighting comes as anti-government protests continue in the border region of Oromia. It is the second-largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, the second most populous nation in Africa, and holds some 47% of the country’s land area.
It also follows political unrest that began last year in the country’s northwest Afar region after thousands of students peacefully protested against government policies in support of Ethiopia’s nine autonomous regions.
That unrest led to large-scale arrests and after the Army used deadly force to quell the protests.
The BBC’s Africa editor, Jens Modvig, in Nairobi, said: “The Ethiopians over the years have repeatedly imposed punishing conditions on people who have protested in Oromia. The suffering of people in the region from government repression is well known.”
Tigray was the source of the debate during the recent US presidency when the former president Barack Obama, previously a friend of the region, halted his planned visit to the capital Addis Ababa and announced a national security adviser to deal with the issue.