On the day, Biden urges Ethiopia’s leader to call for peace, a drone strike kills 17

NAIROBI, Kenya – On the same day President Biden spoke with his Ethiopian counterpart, Abiy Ahmed, about the chances of peace in the protracted war in Tigray, at least 17 people, including women and children, were killed. during an air strike, aid workers said.

Monday’s strike comes days after dozens of others were killed after a drone opened fire on a refugee camp in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region and highlights a growing situation. increase The deadly role of armed droness, some supplied by US allies, in a conflict that has severely destabilized Africa’s second most populous nation.

Video from the aftermath of Friday’s strike, provided by aid workers, shows the charred bodies of women and children lying on blue plastic with the United Nations logo. On Monday, the Secretary-General of the United Nations, António Guterres, said he was “deeply concerned” about the attack, which came hours after the Ethiopian government issued a call for “national reconciliation”. At least 50 people were killed, he said.

On Monday, in his first face-to-face conversation as leader, Mr. Biden phoned Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, to urge him to “accelerate progress toward an order.” negotiated ceasefire” and expanded humanitarian access across the country, The White House said in a statement.

The release of prisoners, and Mr. Abiy’s call for a national dialogue, offer “a moment of opportunity, if the parties are willing and able to seize it”, a senior administration official said. unnamed high told reporters during a press conference about the conversation. Mr. Biden also expressed concern about the civilian deaths resulting from the airstrikes.

But a few hours later, the news filtered through to another attack.

Aid workers from two organizations and local officials said the missile hit a flour mill in Mai Tsebri, in the Tigray region, on Monday afternoon, killing at least 17 people and dozens more. injured. They say witnesses saw drones in the sky before the attack happened.

According to an internal United Nations report cited by an aid worker, most of those killed were women who went to the mill to grind grain.

Aid workers spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retaliation from Ethiopia, expel some international and UN aid officials last year, and detained many journalists including a video journalist recognized for the Associated Press was arrested last month.

Colonel Getnet Adane, a spokesman for the Ethiopian military, referred questions about the airstrikes to an Ethiopian government spokesman, who did not respond.

A mediator appointed by the African Union, Olusegun Obasanjo, the former president of Nigeria, flew to the Tigrayan capital of Mekelle on Tuesday morning, two Western diplomats said. Hours later, gunfire echoed throughout the city as Tigrayan anti-aircraft guns opened fire, apparently in response to drones circling overhead, an aid official in the city said.

The US has repeatedly called on Eritrea, whose troops are fighting in Tigray in support of Mr Abiy, to withdraw their forces – a call echoed by a senior US official, who told Mr. reporters on Monday.

However, the official declined to comment on the role of other countries accused of causing the fighting, including the United Arab Emirates, a major US ally.

Powerful Chinese-built drones supplied by the UAE to Ethiopia, as well as less powerful models supplied by Turkey, play an important role in this. a series of dramatic victories on the battlefield Abiy’s forces in December, Western officials and analysts said.

Since August, Ethiopia has also purchased drones from Iran. Websites that track international flights have cargo flights detected came to Ethiopia from Chengdu, the city of China where there is power Wing Loong unmanned aerial vehicle is produced.

It is not clear which armed drones carried out the latest deadly air strikes on Tigray, but the supply of military equipment is increasingly becoming the focus of international efforts to prevent fighting. .

Foreign diplomats say the US pressured the UAE to halt a series of drone strikes in the early weeks of the war. Last week, the White House appointed a new special envoy to the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, to replace Jeffrey Feltman.

Satterfield is currently the US ambassador to Turkey and raised the issue recently about the sale of armed drones to Ethiopia with Turkish officials, the officials said.

The war on drones comes amid a growing humanitarian crisis. At least 9.4 million people in northern Ethiopia need urgent help, UN saysbut a government blockade has prevented vital supplies of food and medicine from reaching Tigray, where the majority live.

According to the United Nations, less than 12% of needed supplies were approved between July and December, and last week doctors at Tigray’s main hospital made a desperate appeal for supplies. Basic level includes antibiotics, surgical gloves and cancer drugs.

“We are just counting deaths that occur from completely preventable causes,” said Mussie Tesfay, administrator of Ayder Referral Hospitals, in an email. “It is heartbreaking to watch our dear patients die one by one.”

Simon Marks Reporting contributions from Milan, Italy. On the day, Biden urges Ethiopia’s leader to call for peace, a drone strike kills 17

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