The MSF humanitarian organization “horrified” by the assassination of its colleagues in Ethiopia
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders said on Friday “horrified by the brutal murder” of three colleagues in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the latest attack on aid workers helping civilians in the deadly conflict there .
A statement from the aid group, also known by its French acronym MSF, said two Ethiopian colleagues and a Spanish man were found dead on Friday, a day after colleagues lost contact with them while traveling.
“This morning, the vehicle was found empty and a few meters away, their lifeless bodies,” the statement said.
“We condemn this attack on our colleagues in the strongest terms and we will be relentless to understand what happened,” MSF added, calling it “unthinkable” that the three – the emergency coordinator Maria Hernandez, the deputy coordinator Yohannes Halefom Reda and driver Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael – paid for their work with their lives.
Ethiopia FM implicates Tigray fighters
In a statement, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry expressed condolences for the deaths allegedly taking place in the town of Abi Addi, and suggested the Tigray fighters were to blame. He also called for military escorts – a thorny issue for many aid groups as Ethiopian forces, like all parties to the conflict, have been accused of abuses.
Another MSF team was attacked in March after seeing Ethiopian soldiers pull men from two public buses and shoot them dead. Soldiers beat the MSF driver and threatened to kill him, the aid organization said at the time.
The latest attack came amid some of the fiercest fighting in Tigray since the conflict began in November. This week, the Ethiopian army admitted to carrying out an airstrike on a busy market in Tigray which health workers said killed several dozen civilians. The army said it was targeting fighters.
Ethiopian soldiers arrest civilian victims of airstrikes
Ethiopian soldiers arrested six victims of the airstrike en route to a hospital and three were later released, a regional health official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal . The three people still detained – two women and a 15-year-old boy – were not receiving medical treatment, the official said, adding: “It is very desperate.” It is not known why they are being held.
The conflict in Tigray has been very difficult for aid workers who have advocated for better access to the region since the fighting began, with Ethiopian forces backed by those in neighboring Eritrea pursuing former Tigray rulers.
At least 12 aid workers have been killed since the start of the conflict.
900,000 people facing famine in Tigray
Death by famine is another looming crisis in Tigray. US Agency for International Development chief Samantha Power tweeted on Friday that “terrifying” new findings show that as many as 900,000 people in the region are now facing starvation conditions, “with millions others at risk “.
The United Nations warned Thursday that at least 33,000 children in inaccessible parts of Tigray “are severely malnourished and risk imminent death without immediate help.”
Meanwhile, Ethiopia awaits the results of Monday’s national elections, the first ballot test for Abiy, who received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, a year after taking office. He is now accused by critics of backing down on political reforms.
Abiy’s government has declared the elections to be the first free and fair in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country. But on Friday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the vote “was neither free nor fair for all Ethiopians”, citing opposition boycotts, detentions of political leaders and insecurity in various regions from the country.
The statement also called for a ceasefire in Tigray and the withdrawal of Eritrean forces, who have been accused by witnesses of atrocities, including gang rapes and massacres.
In a separate statement on Friday, the European Union and 12 countries, including Britain and Japan, described “problematic conditions” regarding Monday’s elections and called for a national dialogue to defuse the conflict.