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Aid workers ‘brutally murdered’ on mission in Ethiopia, bodies dumped

Nairobi: The medical charity Medicines Sans Frontiers said it was “horrified by the brutal murder” of three colleagues in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the latest attack on humanitarian workers helping civilians in the deadly conflict there.

A statement by the aid group said two Ethiopian colleagues and one from Spain were found dead Friday, a day after colleagues lost contact with them while they were travelling.

Aid workers are reluctant to accepted military escorts as the armed forces have been accused of atrocities.

Aid workers are reluctant to accepted military escorts as the armed forces have been accused of atrocities. Credit:AP

“This morning the vehicle was found empty and a few metres away, their lifeless bodies,” the statement said.

“We condemn this attack on our colleagues in the strongest possible terms and will be relentless in understanding of what happened,” MSF added, calling it “unthinkable” that the three — emergency coordinator Maria Hernandez, assistant coordinator Yohannes Halefom Reda and driver Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael — paid for their work with their lives.

In a statement, Ethiopia’s foreign ministry expressed condolences for the deaths that the government said occurred in the town of Abi Addi, and suggested that Tigray fighters were to blame. Ethiopia also called for military escorts — a thorny issue for many aid groups because the army, like all sides in the conflict, have been accused of abuses.

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Another MSF team was attacked in March after witnessing Ethiopian soldiers pulling men off two public buses and shooting them dead. Soldiers beat the MSF driver and threatened to kill him, the aid group said at the time.

This latest attack occurred amid some of the fiercest fighting in Tigray since the conflict began in November. This week Ethiopia’s military acknowledged carrying out an air strike on a busy market in Tigray that health workers said killed several dozen civilians. The military claimed it was targeting combatants.

Ethiopian soldiers detained six victims of the air strike en route to a hospital and three were later released, a regional health official said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of retaliation. The three who are still being detained — two women and a 15 year-old boy — were not receiving medical care, said the official who added, “this is very desperate”. It’s unclear why they’re held.

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