© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: A tank damaged during fighting between Ethiopia’s National Defense Force (ENDF) and Tigray Special Forces stands on the outskirts of the city of Humera, Ethiopia on July 1, 2021. REUTERS / Stringer / File Photo

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Rebel Tigrayan troops accused the Ethiopian government of air strikes on the capital of the Tigray region on Monday.

The reported raid follows intensified fighting https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ethiopian-offensive-two-northern-regions-intensified-tigrayan-forces-say-2021-10-13 in two other Ethiopian regions, where The central government military is trying to recapture territory captured by the Tigrayan People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) in the northern province.

Tigrai TV, which is controlled by the TPLF, said three civilians were killed in the attack on the city of Mekelle.

Ethiopia’s government spokesman Legesse Tulu denied an attack. “Why would the Ethiopian government attack their own city? Mekelle is an Ethiopian city,” he said.

“Terrorists are the ones who attack cities with innocent civilians, not the government,” added Legesse. He accused the TPLF of killing civilians in fighting in neighboring regions.

However, the Ethiopian state press agency announced late in the day that the Ethiopian Air Force had carried out an air strike targeting communications infrastructure in the city.

The infrastructure belonged to the government but came under the control of the Tigrayan troops, the report said. The strike destroyed a communications tower and other equipment, the report said.

Reuters has not been able to verify any of the accounts in an area that is closed to journalists.

A resident of the city told Reuters that a strike struck near a market behind a hotel. A helper and doctor in the area also said there had been an attack, and a diplomat shared pictures of the aftermath, including pools of blood and broken windows.

Everyone asked not to be named. Reuters was unable to confirm the authenticity of the images.

“I WAS A FEW METERS AWAY”

Almost a year ago war broke out in Tigray between the Ethiopian military and the TPLF, the political party that controls the region, killing thousands and forcing more than two million to flee.

The Tigrayan troops were initially repulsed but retook most of the region in July and pushed into the neighboring regions of Amhara and Afar, displacing hundreds of thousands more https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/ethiopian-families -fleeing- fighting-describing-hunger-rape-amhara-2021-10-18.

A week ago the Tigraan armed forces said the military had launched a ground offensive to drive them out of Amhara. The military admitted heavy fighting there on Thursday but accused the Tigrayan Forces of having started it.

Covering details of Monday’s airstrike, Tigray TV said the first attack hit the outskirts near a cement factory while the second hit the city center.

A doctor in the area said he heard the first attack Monday morning. “First I heard the noise of a jet and also an explosion from a distance,” the doctor told Reuters.

“Then in the afternoon I heard another noise that seemed closer. This seemed to have happened in town,” said the doctor.

A Mekelle resident told Reuters that around noon (0900 GMT), a strike struck near a market behind the city’s Planet Hotel in the city center.

“I was a few meters away, I thought they had approached our premises,” said the resident.

TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda tweeted, “The #AbiyAhmed ‘Air Force’ sent their bomber jet to attack civilian targets in and outside of #Mekelle,” referring to Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Diplomats fear that renewed fighting will further destabilize Ethiopia, a nation of 109 million people, and increase hunger in Tigray and the surrounding regions.

The United Nations have received “alarming reports” of air strikes in Mekelle, but are still trying to verify details, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York on Monday.

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