12 killed in attack in Ethiopia's Afar region: doctor

·3 min read

At least 12 people were killed and dozens wounded in an attack on civilians displaced by the widening war in northern Ethiopia, a medical official told AFP Tuesday, signalling the rising humanitarian toll of the conflict.

The incident occurred on August 5 in Galicoma, a town in the Afar region, said Dr Abubeker Mahammud, medical director of the Dubti Referral Hospital, where victims were being treated.

"Twelve dead bodies arrived at the hospital," Abubeker told AFP.

"The total number of injured victims is more than 46, almost around 50. Almost 75 percent of them had bullet injuries."

Survivors told hospital officials that they were shot by fighters from the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), Abubeker said.

Northern Ethiopia has been wracked by fighting since last November, when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops to topple the TPLF, then the ruling party of the Tigray region.

The move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps, said Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize.

Although Abiy promised a swift victory, the war took a stunning turn in June when Tigrayan forces recaptured Tigray's capital Mekele and the Ethiopian army largely withdrew.

Since then the TPLF has pushed east into neighbouring Afar and south into the Amhara region.

Ethiopian officials have seized on the deaths in Galicoma as proof of the TPLF's disregard for the worsening humanitarian situation in Tigray, where the UN says 400,000 people are living in famine-like conditions.

But TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said on Twitter late Monday that government troops "launched an offensive on August 5 against our forces in Galicoma."

He said the TPLF would "work with relevant bodies to investigate any incident that may have occurred."

- Higher tolls -

Two officials with Afar's regional government put the death toll in Galicoma at more than 200, but that figure could not be independently verified.

Ayish Yasin, head of Afar's bureau for women and children, told AFP Tuesday that "200 bodies of civilians have been recovered so far, while more than 48 are still missing."

Golbe Sila, chief of staff for Afar's regional president, also said the death toll was at least 200.

Ayish, who visited Galicoma Monday, said many of the victims were killed by artillery fire and buried immediately.

They had been seeking shelter at an area where food aid was being stored, she said.

"Out of the 200 bodies recovered, 107 are children -- 48 girls and 59 boys," she said.

"The victims are civilians who had no role in the conflict."

The head of the UN children's agency UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, said Monday she was "extremely alarmed by the reported killing of over 200 people, including more than 100 children, in attacks on displaced families" in Afar.

UNICEF officials in New York did not respond to requests for comment, and the agency's office in Addis Ababa said it did not have more information than what was in Fore's statement.

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