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Capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region hit by airstrikes, eyewitness and local forces say

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The eyewitness in Mekelle told CNN she heard an explosion and saw smoke in the vicinity of Adi Haki Market, describing a scene of panic with people running around when she left her office following the blast.

One resident of the city told Reuters one strike hit close to a market, behind a hotel. An aid worker and a doctor in the region also said there had been an attack and a diplomat shared pictures with Reuters of what they said was the aftermath, including pools of blood and smashed windows.

A spokesman for the Tigray People’s Liberation Front accused Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of targeting civilians in an attack on a busy market day. Ethiopia’s federal government launched a military offensive to oust the TPLF last November and fighting has been ongoing since.

One of the targets of the airstrikes was the Planet Hotel where a “dozen or so humanitarian agencies used to have their employees,” TPLF spokesman Getachew Reda claimed. “Our people won’t be cowed into submission by a desperate move by a desperate regime teetering on the brink of collapse.”

Ethiopia’s head of government communications vehemently denied that it had carried out the airstrikes. The “government doesn’t have any plan to terrorize its own people. Why should it? It’s not true,” Leggese Tulu told CNN. “Those terrorists want to confuse the world by falsely claiming we are being attacked both by air and land to turn the world against Ethiopia.”

In a separate statement, the government spokesperson’s office said that “the government of Ethiopia would like to request the US and its partners not to be swayed by the crying wolf TPLF and downplay the suffering of people in north Wollo, Gonder, Wag Hemera of Amhara, and Afar regions.”

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