Only militants, not civilians, were killed in an air attack in Ethiopia’s Tigray area this week, according to the country’s military spokesman.
In an interview with Reuters in Addis Ababa, Colonel Getnet Adane said that the combatants in Togoga were clothed in civilian clothes.
According to Reuters, an air strike in the town killed at least 43 people on Tuesday. Residents reported additional violence north of Mekelle, the provincial seat, in recent days, prompting the strike.
A resident of the town told Reuters on Wednesday that the air strike a day earlier had hit a market in the town west of Mekelle at around 1 p.m. That resident also said that her 2-year-old daughter had been injured in the attack.
The combatants were not inside the market, according to the military spokesman, but had assembled in town to commemorate the bombing of another Tigray town, Hawzen, in 1988. Hundreds of people were slain in Ethiopia’s then-ruling Communist leaders’ onslaught, which is fondly remembered in Tigray.
The official stated he did not have the strike’s death toll but that it would be released soon.
Since November, the military has been fighting rebels loyal to the region’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF). Fighting has forced 2 million people to flee their homes, and the UN has issued a famine warning.
Asked about children injured in Tuesday’s attack, the spokesman said the TPLF uses propaganda and is known for faking injuries. He also said that doctors quoted by the media are not “real doctors”.
Residents said new fighting has risen in recent days north of Tigray’s provincial capital Mekelle, prompting the military to confirm the air strike for the first time.
Getnet, the military spokesman, had previously refused to confirm or deny the occurrence, claiming that air strikes are a routine military strategy and that government forces do not target people.
Ethiopian officials were counting ballots from national and regional parliamentary elections held this week in seven of the country’s ten regions when the air strike occurred.
Tigray did not vote, while voting in two other regions was postponed due to security concerns and issues with ballot papers.