ADDIS ABABA (REUTERS) - An air strike in Ethiopia's Tigray region killed at least 56 people and injured 30, including children, in a camp for displaced people, two aid workers said on Saturday (Jan 8), citing local authorities and eyewitness accounts.
The government has previously denied targeting civilians in the 14-month conflict with rebellious Tigrayan forces.
Mr Getachew Reda, the spokesman for the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) that has been fighting the central government, said in a tweet: "Another callous drone attack by Abiy Ahmed in an IDP (Internally Displaced People) camp in Dedebit has claimed the lives of 56 innocent civilians so far." He was referring to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
The strike in the town of Dedebit, in the north-west of the region near the border with Eritrea, occurred late on Friday night, said the aid workers, who asked not to be named as they are not authorised to speak to the media.
Earlier on Friday, the government had freed several opposition leaders from prison and said it would begin dialogue with political opponents to foster reconciliation.
Both aid workers said the number of dead was confirmed by the local authorities. The aid workers sent Reuters pictures they said they had taken of the wounded in hospital, who included many children.
One of the aid workers, who visited Shire Suhul General Hospital where the injured were taken for treatment, said the camp hosts many old women and children.
"They told me the bombs came at midnight. It was completely dark and they couldn't escape," the aid worker said.
Ethiopian federal troops went to war with Tigrayan forces in November 2020. Since the war erupted, Reuters has reported atrocities by all sides, which the parties to the fighting have denied.
One of the aid workers said that one of the wounded in Friday's strike, Mr Asefa Gebrehaworia, 75, burst into tears as he recounted how his friend was killed. He was being treated for injuries to his left leg and hand.
Fighting had forced Mr Asefa out of his home, and now the air strike has destroyed the camp, where even though he was facing hunger, at least he had shelter, he told the aid worker. He had arrived in the camp for displaced people from the border town of Humera.
Before the latest strike, at least 146 people had been killed and 213 injured in air strikes in Tigray since Oct 18, according to a document prepared by aid agencies and shared with Reuters last week.
In Friday's reconciliation move, the government freed opposition leaders from several ethnic groups. They included some leaders of the TPLF.
The TPLF expressed scepticism about Mr Abiy's call for national reconciliation.
"His daily routine of denying medication to helpless children and of sending drones targeting civilians flies in the face of his self-righteous claims," Mr Getachew tweeted on Friday.
The TPLF accuses the federal authorities of imposing an aid blockade on the region, leading to hunger and shortages of essentials like fuel and medicine. The government denies blocking the passage of aid convoys.