Ethiopia’s military on Thursday carried out an air strike on the capital of the war-torn Tigray region that a hospital official said killed 10 people.
The government said the strike, the latest in a campaign of air bombardments, hit a factory in Mekele used by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The air force “destroyed the second part of Mesfin Industrial Engineering. The facility was used by TPLF terrorist group for maintaining its military equipments,” said government spokeswoman Selamawit Kassa.
Dr. Hayelom Kebede, research director at Mekele’s Ayder Referral Hospital, said a residential area was hit and casualties were inflicted.
“The death toll reaches 10,” he said, up from his earlier count that put the number of dead at six and listed 21 people as injured.
The Tigrai Communications Affairs Bureau, a TPLF-linked information channel, also reported casualties and said the strike had hit a residential area.
Earlier, TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda confirmed the strike on Mekele and said the rebels’ air defense units were engaging an enemy jet.
Much of northern Ethiopia is under a communications blackout and access for journalists is restricted, making battlefield claims difficult to independently verify.
Tigray was pounded by near-daily aerial bombardments last week as the military stepped up its use of air power in the year-long war against the TPLF.
The government said the facilities bombed in northern and western Tigray were military in nature and aiding the TPLF, the former ruling party in the region.
The UN said two strikes on Mekele on October 18 killed three children and wounded several other people. Another person died in a later strike.
Control of the skies, along with superior manpower, is one of the few remaining areas where the federal government holds a military advantage over the rebels.
The bombings have drawn international censure, and disrupted UN access to the region where an estimated 400,000 people face famine-like conditions under a de-facto aid blockade.
Meanwhile, residents reported hearing shelling on Thursday in Dessie, a major town in the Amhara region that borders Tigray.
Residents had reported a heavy military build-up in the area, as civilians fleeing conflict-hit towns further north poured into Dessie seeking refuge.
“They fired heavy artillery from a distance. It fell behind our neighbourhood, and did not cause any casualties,” said one Dessie resident who declined to be named.
Another reported hearing “at least four rounds” of artillery being fired toward the town.
The TPLF on October 20 claimed the rebels were “within artillery range” of Dessie, which sits about 400 kilometers north (250 miles) of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.
The following day, Amhara regional president Yilkal Kefale called for armed Amharas to converge on Dessie to defend it.
Tigray erupted in conflict in November 2020 after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to topple the TPLF.
The 2019 Nobel Peace laureate said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on army camps and promised a swift victory.
But by late June the rebels had regrouped and retaken most of Tigray, including Mekele, and fighting spread to the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar.