Eritrean troops injure 19 in Tigray shooting: doctors, witnesses

Wednesday April 14 2021
Eritrea pic
By AFP

Eritrean soldiers opened fire on civilians in Ethiopia's war-hit Tigray region, injuring 19 people, doctors and witnesses said Tuesday.

The incident took place in the town of Adwa early Monday, more than two weeks after Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced that Eritrean troops would leave Tigray -- a promise the G7 group of leading nations has publicly urged him to keep. 

"Early in the morning... we heard some shooting and we were immediately called to the hospital," a doctor in Adwa told AFP. 

"When we arrived there were 19 patients. Ten of them were severely injured, four of them had moderate injuries, and five had mild injuries," said the doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity fearing reprisals.

The gunfire struck civilians who were waiting in line at a bank and others who were walking to work, a witness said.

"In previous killings, the Eritrean soldiers would disembark from vehicles and attack civilians, but this time they sprayed civilians with bullets as they passed on through the main highway in Adwa city," said the witness, who also spoke on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.

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Adwa residents told AFP the Eritreans were easily identifiable by their uniforms and accents. 

Eritrea's information minister did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The Eritrean government has previously denied reports that Eritreans have committed abuses against civilians, including mass killings and rapes. 

Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops into Tigray in November to detain and disarm leaders of the once dominant regional ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

He said the move came in response to TPLF-orchestrated attacks on federal army camps. 

Abiy declared victory within weeks, but combat has continued and analysts warn of a prolonged stalemate. 

Addis Ababa and Asmara long denied Eritreans were active in the war, contradicting testimony from residents, rights groups, aid workers, diplomats and even some Ethiopian civilian and military officials.

Abiy finally acknowledged their presence in March while speaking to lawmakers.

It is unclear how many Eritrean soldiers are in the region or whether any have left in recent weeks.

The medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Twitter on Tuesday that 18 wounded people arrived at the hospital in Adwa and that 11 "critically injured" patients were transferred west to the town of Axum. 

"Injured patients say soldiers opened fire on them near Adwa bus station," the group said, without identifying which soldiers.

"MSF is concerned about the ongoing violence in Tigray and urges for respect of people's lives."