Armed drone strikes on the rise in Tigray

 Young Ethiopian people collecting food Young Ethiopian people collecting food Kelley Lynch/USAID Ethiopia on Flickr

31 January 2022

Drone strikes intensify in Tigray causing aid organizations to delay their operations amid growing concern over the deepening humanitarian crisis

Concern is growing over the situation in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, which has found itself at the centre of a devastating civil war since November 2020. Ethiopia’s government has attempted to restrict coverage of the conflict but accounts of the huge toll on civilians and of the unfolding humanitarian crisis regularly emerge from aid workers on the ground.

In recent months, the use of armed drones in Ethiopia has intensified, with almost-daily reports of deadly attacks since October. An airstrike on 6 January was carried out targeting rebels in the Oromia region. While the death toll remains unclear, an investigation found evidence that is thought to suggest the use of Iranian munitions. Only a few days later, on 8 January, an air attack targeted a refugee centre in Dedebit, Tigray, killing more than 50 and injuring hundreds of people. The event is currently being investigated as satellite images and some of the fragments found in the aftermath appear to reveal the use of a missile fired from a Turkish-manufactured drone. In mid-December, a series of airstrikes led to 28 civilian deaths in Alamata, southern Tigray. Based on the footage of the debris, an investigation concluded that the fragments found were identical to those of a type of missile manufactured in China and in the United Arab Emirates and which can be mounted on a drone.

The export of armed drones is, at present, not fully regulated by international law, but the case of Ethiopia shows that their use in conflict zones is soaring, raising serious questions for the international community. Meanwhile, the continued threat of drone attacks has led to aid organizations suspending their operations in northwest Tigray, at a time when the people of the region need it the most.


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Author: Giulia Ferrara; Editor: Xavier Atkins

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