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Tigray rebels claim dozens killed in strike on civilian camp in Ethiopia

Reports of attack emerge after government declares surprise pardons for a number of detained opposition leaders

A soldier from the Ethiopian National Defense Forces gestures after finishing training in the field of Dabat, 70 kilometers (43 miles) northeast of the city of Gondar, Ethiopia, on September 14, 2021. (Amanuel Sileshi/AFP)
A soldier from the Ethiopian National Defense Forces gestures after finishing training in the field of Dabat, 70 kilometers (43 miles) northeast of the city of Gondar, Ethiopia, on September 14, 2021. (Amanuel Sileshi/AFP)

NAIROBI, Kenya (AFP) — Tigrayan rebels claimed Saturday that dozens of people had been killed in a drone strike on a camp for civilians displaced by the brutal war in northern Ethiopia.

Reports of the attack emerged just a day after the government declared surprise pardons for a number of detained opposition leaders, including senior Tigrayan figures, in what it said was a move to foster national reconciliation.

The amnesty has been welcomed by the international community as a possible way out of 14 months of brutal fighting between forces loyal to Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and the rebel Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).

Friday’s announcement followed a dramatic shift on the battlefield, with the rebels retreating to their Tigray stronghold at the end of December in the face of a military offensive that saw government forces retake a string of strategic towns.

Although there appeared to be a lull in fighting since, the rebels have accused the government of continuing to conduct deadly drone attacks on Tigray.

TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said on Twitter that an attack on the camp in the northwestern town of Dedebit “has claimed the lives of 56 innocent civilians so far.”

A group from the Tigrayan diaspora in North America protest about the conflict in Ethiopia, near the State Department, on December 22, 2021, in Washington, DC. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

His claim could not be independently verified, with access to Tigray restricted and the region under communications blackout, and there was no immediate response to requests for comment from Ethiopian government officials.

However, a senior official at the main hospital in Tigray’s capital Mekele told AFP that the hospital in the town of Shire where the victims were taken had reported 55 people dead and 126 injured.

The European Union also briefly referred to the airstrike in a statement Saturday, saying it had killed and wounded many civilians.

Earlier this week the United Nations said three Eritrean refugees including two children had been killed in an airstrike Wednesday on a refugee camp in Tigray.

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