Three MSF aid workers killed in Ethiopia's Tigray region

Ethiopian Army soldiers

Ethiopian Army soldiers stand as a child stand next to them at Mai Aini Refugee camp, in Ethiopia, on January 30, 2021

Photo credit: Eduardo Soteras | AFP

What you need to know:

  • The Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the attack took place in an area controlled by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), known as Abi-Adi.

Three staffers of medical charity group Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), who had been working in the troubled Tigray region of Ethiopia, have been found dead, the organisation has confirmed, suspecting wartime killings.

MSF said in a statement that it was "deeply saddened" by the "brutal murder" of its staff.

It identified them as Maria Hernandez, a Spanish national who had been working as an emergency coordinator; Yohannes Halefom, an assistant coordinator; and Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael, an MSF driver. The latter two were Ethiopian.

MSF said it lost contact with the workers on Thursday afternoon. The bodies were found near their empty car on Friday.

"No words can truly convey all our sadness, shock and outrage against this horrific attack, nor can words soothe the loss and suffering of their families and loved ones, to whom we relay our deepest sympathy and condolences" MSF said in a statement on Saturday.

"We condemn this attack on our colleagues in the strongest possible terms and will be relentless in understanding what happened. Maria, Yohaness and Tedros were in Tigray providing assistance to people and it is unthinkable that they paid for this work with their lives."

Rebel stronghold

In a tweet Saturday morning, the Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the attack took place in an area controlled by the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), known as Abi-Adi.

"The Ethiopian government would like to express condolences on the death of three MSF staffers, a Spaniard and two Ethiopians, in Abi Adi, Tigray, where TPLF actively operates,” it said.

"The government's call for military escort in such areas was to avoid such tragic killings by the irresponsible group.”

However, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Fighting continues

MSF has actively been supporting and providing medical assistance across Tigray since conflict erupted there last November.

All parties to the conflict have been accused of atrocities against civilians and several other human rights violations.

In March, MSF reportedly said that in the aftermath of an ambush on the army, its workers witnessed soldiers carrying out extrajudicial killings, while their own driver was beaten with the butt of a gun and threatened with death.

Heavy fighting has been reported in the region this week, and several civilians either injured or killed in airstrikes.

On Tuesday, an air raid at a market place in Togogo town killed over 50 people, but the government denies targeting civilians.

Colonel Getnet, spokesman of the Ethiopian National Defense Force, on Friday admitted that air strikes were carried out but said the only targets were rebels operating near Togogo town.

"We haven't carried out air strikes on a marketplace. How can this be? The army has the capability to hit the target with precision,” he told reporters.

"Allegations of market attacks are completely false" he added.