The leader of Ethiopia’s Tigray rebel forces said the regional capital Mekelle was bombed yesterday, but gave no more details as federal troops said they were bearing down on the highland city of about half a million people.
There was no immediate comment from Ethiopia’s government to the information via text message from Debretsion Gebremichael, who heads the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
The government has previously denied bombing civilian targets.
The claim came as Ethiopia’s government accused the head of the World Health Organisation of lobbying neighbouring countries to aid the rebellious Tigray regional government with arms and other support.
General Birhanu Jula, Ethiopia’s army chief, told reporters that Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, a fellow Ethiopian, had urged unnamed neighbours to “oppose the war and for (the Tigray People’s Liberation Front) to get arms”.
The army chief did not provide any evidence to support his claims.
The TPLF has been clashing with Ethiopian federal forces for two weeks after the country’s prime minister accused the heavily armed regional government of attacking a military base. Each government regards the other as illegal after a months-long falling-out amid political reforms.
The army chief accused Dr Tedros, formerly a foreign minister when the TPLF dominated Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, of being a member of the TPLF.
WHO Africa chief Matshidiso Moeti defended Dr Tedros during a Covid-19 briefing but did not address the allegation directly.
She told reporters: “What I can say in response is that I know Tedros. I know him as somebody who is passionately promoting global health, promoting the good health of people and promoting peace.”
The Tigray region remains largely cut off from the world with communications and transport links severed, making it difficult to verify either side’s claims about what is happening there. No one knows how many people have been killed, and some 30,000 refugees have streamed into Sudan.
Ethiopian officials, and Tigrayan ones, have issued a torrent of allegations in the conflict, often without providing evidence, in an effort to win the narrative war as well and garner support for their side.
Governments and human rights groups alike have urged the swift restoration of communications links to Tigray, and no limits on media, to allow for more transparency.