UN humanitarian flight forced away amid Ethiopian airstrikes

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A United Nations humanitarian aid flight was forced away from Mekele, the capital of Ethiopia’s Tigray region, amid airstrikes from the government. 

Tigray forces spokesman Getachew Reda said in a tweet Friday the U.N. plane had to abort its landing despite earlier getting approval from the government for the flight.

“Our air defense units knew the UN plane was scheduled to land & it was due in large measure to their restraint it was not caught in a crossfire,” Reda said. “What begs the question however is the government cleared the UN plane to fly to #Mekelle only to send its fighter jet in time to raid civilian targets.”

“While the use of the UN flight as a distraction couldn’t be ruled out, it is not entirely implausible to suspect that the Smart Alecs in Addis were indeed setting up the UN plane to be hit by our guns,” Reda added.

The Ethiopian government has launched major offensive strikes against the Tigray People’s Liberation Front this month, escalating the conflict after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s inauguration for another five-year term.

The government in Addis Ababa and humanitarian groups have been at loggerheads during the country’s civil war, with the U.N. trying to get food to the millions of Ethiopians who are facing famine-like conditions, according to The Associated Press.

The World Food Program said in a statement to The Hill the flight had 11 passengers and was cleared by the country’s federal authorities to enter.

The aircraft went back to Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa after it was told to abort landing. 

More U.N. humanitarian flights to Mekelle have been suspended due to the incident. 

Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu told The Associated Press the military plane and U.N. one had a “different time and direction” for their flights and the government knew the U.N. aircraft was around. 

Only 1 percent of the food intended for more than 5 million people between Oct. 7 and Oct. 13 was able to get through due to the fighting, the U.N. said. 

Updated 3:42 p.m.

Tags Abiy Ahmed Addis Ababa Ethiopia Getachew Reda Humanitarian aid mekele Tigray War

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