Ethiopian military air strikes hit Tigray region capital Mekelle killing at least three people

Ethiopian military air strikes hit the capital of the Tigray region and killed at least three people, reports said on Monday, returning the war abruptly to Mekelle after several months of peace.

Ethiopia’s government, however, dismissed the reports.

The raids, confirmed by two humanitarian workers, came days after a new military offensive was launched against the Tigray forces who have fought Ethiopian and allied forces for nearly a year.

Kindeya Gebrehiwot, a spokesman for the Tigray authorities who lives in Mekelle, told The Associated Press a market was bombed on a busy shopping day and many people were wounded.

Another resident, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation, said the first air strike occurred just outside the city and three children from the same family were killed. The resident said at least seven people were wounded in the second attack, which also badly damaged a hotel.

Mekelle has not seen fighting since late June, when the Tigray forces retook much of the region and Ethiopian troops withdrew.

Since then, Ethiopia’s federal government has called all able citizens to crush the Tigray fighters who dominated the national government for 27 years before being sidelined by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Tigrai TV reported that the attack on the city of Mekelle was carried out by “Abiy Ahmed”.

The government is yet to confirm use of air power.

The TPLF said the aerial assaults were designed to inflict civilian casualties.

“Monday is market day in Mekelle & the intention is all too palpable,” TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda said on Twitter.

The last time the Ethiopian military carried out an air strike near Mekelle was in June, when a market in Togoga outside the city was hit and at least 64 civilians were killed. Soldiers for hours blocked medical teams from responding to victims.

Pleas from the United Nations, the United States, the European Union, and African nations for the warring sides to stop the fighting have failed, even as the US threatened new sanctions targeting individuals in Africa’s second most populous nation.

The war has killed thousands of people and forced more than two million to flee their homes.