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On Day Biden Calls Ethiopia’s Leader to Urge Peace, a Drone Strike Kills 17

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NAIROBI, Kenya — On the identical day that President Biden spoke together with his Ethiopian counterpart, Abiy Ahmed, about a attainable window for peace within the long-running battle in Tigray, not less than 17 folks, together with ladies and kids, have been killed in an airstrike, support staff stated.

The strike on Monday got here days after dozens extra have been killed after a drone opened hearth on a refugee camp in Ethiopia’s northern area of Tigray and highlighted the more and more lethal position of armed drones, some provided by American allies, in a battle that has badly destabilized Africa’s second most populous nation.

Video from the aftermath of the strike on Friday, offered by support staff, confirmed the charred our bodies of ladies and kids laid out on blue plastic sheeting bearing the United Nations emblem. On Monday the U.N. secretary common, António Guterres, stated he was (*17*) in regards to the assault, which occurred hours after the Ethiopian authorities issued a name for “national reconciliation.” At least 50 folks had been killed, he stated.

Prime Minister Abiy stoked hopes for a cease-fire on Friday with the discharge of outstanding political prisoners, together with a founding member of the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or T.P.L.F., which Mr. Abiy’s authorities has been preventing since November 2020.

On Monday, of their first direct dialog as leaders, Mr. Biden referred to as Mr. Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, to urge him to “accelerate progress toward a negotiated ceasefire” and open up humanitarian entry throughout the nation, the White House stated in a assertion.

The prisoner releases, and Mr. Abiy’s requires a nationwide dialogue, current “a moment of opportunity, if the parties are willing and able to seize it,” a senior administration official who spoke on situation of anonymity instructed reporters in a briefing in regards to the dialog. Mr. Biden additionally expressed his concern about civilian deaths from airstrikes.

But hours later, information filtered by means of of one other assault.

Missiles slammed into a flour mill in Mai Tsebri, within the Tigray area, on Monday afternoon, killing not less than 17 folks and wounding dozens, support staff with two organizations and native officers stated. Witnesses reported seeing drones within the skies earlier than the strike, they stated.

Most of the lifeless have been ladies who had gone to the mill to grind cereals, in accordance to an inside United Nations report cited by one support employee.

The support staff spoke on the situation of anonymity to keep away from reprisals from Ethiopia, which expelled a number of U.N. and worldwide support officers final yr, and has detained quite a few journalists together with a video journalist accredited to the Associated Press arrested final month.

Col. Getnet Adane, a spokesman for the Ethiopian navy, referred questions in regards to the airstrikes to the Ethiopian authorities spokesman, who didn’t reply.

A mediator appointed by the African Union, Olusegun Obasanjo, a former president of Nigeria, flew into the Tigrayan capital Mekelle on Tuesday morning, two Western diplomats stated. Hours later, gunfire rang out throughout town as Tigrayan antiaircraft weapons opened hearth, apparently in response to drones circling overhead, an support official within the metropolis stated.

The United States has repeatedly referred to as on Eritrea, whose troops are preventing in Tigray in help of Mr. Abiy, to withdraw their forces — a name reiterated by the senior American official who briefed reporters on Monday.

But the official declined to touch upon the position of different nations accused of fueling the preventing, together with the United Arab Emirates — a main American ally.

Powerful Chinese-built drones provided by the U.A.E. to Ethiopia, in addition to much less highly effective fashions provided by Turkey, performed a main position in a string of dramatic battlefield victories by Mr. Abiy’s forces in December, Western officers and analysts stated.

Since August, Ethiopia has additionally acquired drones from Iran. Websites that monitor worldwide flights have detected cargo flights into Ethiopia from Chengdu, the Chinese metropolis the place the highly effective Wing Loong drone is manufactured.

It is unclear which armed drones carried out the newest lethal strikes in Tigray, however provides of navy tools are more and more turning into a focus of worldwide efforts to halt the preventing.

The United States pressured the U.A.E. to cease an earlier spherical of drone strikes within the opening weeks of the battle, overseas diplomats say. Last week the White House appointed a new particular envoy to the Horn of Africa, David Satterfield, to change Jeffrey Feltman.

Mr. Satterfield is at present the American ambassador to Turkey and has raised the difficulty of current gross sales of armed drones to Ethiopia with Turkish officers, officers say.

The drone battle comes towards the backdrop of a hovering humanitarian disaster. At least 9.4 million folks in northern Ethiopia urgently need assistance, the U.N. says, however a authorities blockade has prevented important provides of meals and drugs from reaching Tigray, the place the bulk reside.

Less than 12 % of required provides received by means of between July and December, in accordance to the U.N., and final week docs at Tigray’s predominant hospital issued a determined attraction for fundamental provides together with antibiotics, surgical gloves and drugs to deal with most cancers.

“We are just counting deaths that happen due to totally preventable causes,” Mussie Tesfay, administrator of the Ayder Referral Hospital, stated in an e-mail. “It is just so heartbreaking to see our beloved patients die one by one.”

Simon Marks contributed reporting from Milan, Italy.