NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — The Ethiopian military struck a target near the capital of the country's Tigray region on Thursday, a government spokesman said, the third day this week of airstrikes as fighting surges after nearly a year of war.
Thousands of people have been killed since November in the conflict that pits the Tigray forces that once dominated the national government against the current government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner. Despite international pleas for a cease-fire, there is no end in sight.
The new airstrikes targeted a former military training center near Mekele city that's currently used as a base by rival Tigray forces, spokesman Legesse Tulu told The Associated Press. He would not say how many strikes were conducted.
There was no immediate word of casualties.
Three Mekele residents reported hearing heavy anti-aircraft fire as the plane approached the city.
“We are investigating where the bomb was dropped,” Nahusenay Belay, a Tigray spokesman, told the AP. He said the plane was still over the city an hour later.
“This aerial bombardment of civilians will only hasten the downfall of the fascist group, and it will not change their defeat on the ground," Tigray leader Debretsion Gebremichael said in a statement posted by Tigray Communications shortly afterward.
An airstrike on Wednesday hit an industrial compound in Mekele, injuring at least 14 people. The government said it targeted Mesfin Industrial Engineering, which it asserted was used by Tigray forces to make and repair weapons.
The Tigray spokesman, Nahusenay, denied that the site had military significance and said it was used to produce civilian cars and tractors. He asserted that the airstrike also damaged two medical centers. Two other airstrikes hit the city on Monday, one of which killed three children, according to residents.
Tigray remains under a communications blackout, making it difficult to verify claims. The region is also under a government-imposed blockade, with almost no deliveries permitted of food, medicines or fuel as Ethiopia's government fears such support will benefit the Tigray forces.
The area had not seen airstrikes since June, when the Ethiopian military struck a busy market not far from Mekele and killed at least 64 people.
Days later, the Tigray forces took back much of the region in a dramatic turn in the war and Ethiopian forces withdrew. Since then, Tigray forces have entered the neighboring Amhara and Afar regions, and Ethiopia's government has urged all able citizens to war.