The Ethiopian army has shown off foreign-built combat drones at a graduation ceremony for military pilots, according to images broadcast on state television.
A drones expert who has tracked the conflict in Ethiopia told AFP that the aircraft that appeared in the footage on Saturday was a Turkish Bayraktar TB2 and a Chinese-manufactured Wing Loong 1.
Both are described as medium-altitude, long-endurance (MALE), unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) capable of armed attacks.
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Analysts have said that use of combat drones by government forces — sometimes with deadly consequences — helped turn the tide of the war against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in northern Ethiopia.
“Ethiopia’s public demonstration of its armed drone capabilities is important as this could improve the accountability over their use,” said Wim Zwijnenburg of the PAX peace organization in the Netherlands.
“International calls over transparency and accountability over the deployment of lethal force with armed drones in counter-insurgency operations are both aimed towards the government itself, after alleged civilian casualties of drones strikes, as well as the countries who sold them to Ethiopia, despite concerns over possible misuse.”
Dozens of people were killed in air strikes in northern Ethiopia towards the end of 2021 and the start of 2022, with the United Nations voicing alarm about the number of civilian casualties.
The TPLF had announced in December it was retreating to its Tigray stronghold in a dramatic battlefield shift just weeks after the rebels appeared to be closing in on the capital Addis Ababa.
In March, the government declared a “humanitarian ceasefire” in the conflict that has killed untold numbers of civilians since it erupted in November 2020 and left millions in need of emergency aid.