Airports near Ethiopia's Tigray state attacked with rockets, government says

Members of the Amhara Special Force in Danasha, near a border with Tigray, Ethiopia, on Nov 9, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

ADDIS ABABA (REUTERS) - Two airports in Ethiopia's Amhara state which neighbours Tigray, where federal troops are fighting local forces, were targeted by rocket fire late on Friday (Nov 13), the government said.

One of the rockets hit the airport in Gondar and partially damaged it late on Friday, said Mr Awoke Worku, spokesman for Gondar central zone, while a second one fired simultaneously landed just outside of the airport at Bahir Dar.

The government blamed the ruling party in Tigray, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

"The TPLF junta is utilising the last of the weaponry within its arsenals," the government's emergency task force wrote on Twitter.

Mr Debretsion Gebremichael, chairman of the TPLF and the state's president, said the airports were legitimate targets.

"Any airport used to attack Tigray will be a legitimate target, not cities of Amhara," he told Reuters in a text message.

Hundreds of people have been killed in the 11-day-old war.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent the national defence force on an offensive against local troops in Tigray last week, after accusing them of attacking federal troops.

An Ethiopian Airlines worker who did not wish to be identified said flights to both Gondar and Bahir Dar airports had been cancelled after the attacks.

Mr Yohannes Ayele, a resident of Gondar, said he heard a loud explosion in the Azezo neighbourhood of the city at 10.30pm.

Another resident of the area said the rocket had damaged the airport terminal building. The area was sealed off and firefighting vehicles were parked outside, the resident added.

The Amhara regional state's forces have been fighting alongside their federal counterparts against Tigray's fighters.

The United Nations, the African Union and others are concerned that the fighting could spread to other parts of Ethiopia, Africa's second-most populous country, and destabilise the wider Horn of Africa region.

More than 14,500 people have fled into neighbouring Sudan, with the speed of new arrivals "overwhelming the current capacity to provide aid", the UN refugee agency said on Friday.

Ethiopia's Human Rights Commission, appointed by the government but independent, said it was sending a team of investigators to the town of Mai Kadra in Tigray, where Amnesty International this week reported what it said was evidence of mass killings.

The commission will investigate any human rights violations in the conflict, it said in a statement.

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