AFP, Mon, July 19, 2021
A convoy bearing food for Ethiopia’s war-hit Tigray came under attack at the weekend, the United Nations said Monday, dealing a further blow to aid distribution in a region threatened with famine.
The 10-vehicle World Food Programme convoy was attacked on Sunday about 115 kilometres (70 miles) from the town of Semera “while attempting to move essential humanitarian cargo into Tigray region”, WFP said in a statement.
The agency said it was working with local officials to determine who was behind the incident.
“WFP has suspended movement of all convoys from Semera until the security of the area can be assured and the drivers can proceed safely.”
Semera is the capital of Afar region, which borders Tigray to the east.
The route via Semera into Tigray had become critical for aid delivery in recent weeks after two key bridges along other routes were destroyed in late June.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray last November to detain and disarm leaders of the region’s then-ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
He said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.
– Fighting spreads –
The 2019 Nobel Peace laureate declared victory in late November after government forces took the Tigray capital Mekele, but TPLF leaders remained on the run and fighting continued.
Last month the war took a stunning turn when pro-TPLF forces retook Mekele, Abiy declared a unilateral ceasefire and the army mostly pulled out of Tigray.
But after rebel leaders launched a new offensive intended to regain control of western and southern Tigray — contested areas that have been occupied by fighters from Amhara region, which borders Tigray to the south — Abiy vowed to “repel” them.
Officials from six regions and the city of Dire Dawa have since vowed to send troops to back up government forces.
At the weekend rebel forces carried out what a spokesman described as a “very limited action” in Afar targeting special forces and militia fighters from Oromia region, the country’s largest.
A state media report published Saturday night accused the TPLF, which the government deems a terrorist organisation, of blocking aid into Tigray via Afar using “heavy shelling” and “heavy artillery.”
But rebel spokesman Getachew Reda denied any aid delivery had been disrupted, saying the fighting was not near any aid routes.
A senior UN official told the UN Security Council this month that the Tigray conflict had pushed 400,000 people into famine and that another 1.8 million people are on the brink of famine.