ref:topbtw-3239.html/ 13 Febbraio 2021/A
Shortly after midnight one month ago, hundreds of hungry people made homeless by the war in Ethiopia -
mostly women, children, and elderly men - slept on a cramped floor in an empty school with a tin roof.
With a flash in the dark, the building was struck by a drone-delivered bomb, killing at least 59 people and gravely
injuring dozens more, according to aid workers whose organizations worked at the camp
for internally displaced people in Dedebit, located in the northern Ethiopian region of Tigray.
They were adamant:
The people killed and wounded were civilians fleeing the war, not combatants in it.
The Washington Post analyzed photos of shrapnel and satellite imagery and cross-referenced video of the aftermath
to confirm that Turkish-made precision-guided munitions were used in the strike, which
took place in the early hours of Jan. 7.
The Ethiopian military is the only party in the conflict known to have access to armed drones.
The emergence of armed drones in Ethiopia reflects a proliferation of unmanned aircraft that has transformed
conflicts around the world, from Libya to Ukraine, as weapons that were once the province of superpowers
become widely available and employed to deadly purpose by governments and rebel groups.
In Ethiopia, the government's use of armed drones has turned the 16-month conflict against the Tigray People's
Liberation Front (TPLF) in its favor.
The use of a precision-guided weapon in the strike in Dedebit raises questions about the Ethiopian government's targets,
which internal documents at aid organizations say have hit not just this camp, but
also other locations far from the battlefield, including a flour mill, a public bus, farms, hotels and busy markets.
Those documents, which were shared with The Washington Post, say more than 300 civilians have been killed
by drone and airstrikes since last September, including more than 100 since the start of this year.
Those deaths represent a fraction of the thousands who are estimated to have died in the conflict
and more than 4 million others, in Tigray and neighboring regions, who face a humanitarian crisis.
The Ethiopian government has not acknowledged the strike and did not respond to multiple requests for comment on how
the target was chosen.
A Turkish government spokesman declined to comment.
The Turkish manufacturer of the drone's munition did not respond to The Post's queries about the
use of their product in the conflict.
An ongoing communications blackout and government restrictions on access have made assessing
ground realities in Tigray exceptionally challenging.
Local aid workers and Tigrai Television, a local media outlet linked to the TPLF, filmed the aftermath of
The Post verified the videos by locating the structures in the footage in satellite imagery of the
camp and by comparing the clips to each other.
In the videos, bodies are lined up in rows near the targeted school, surrounded by a grieving crowd.
Entire limbs are torn off, faces disfigured beyond recognition.
At least five women and seven children are visible among the dead.
A priest sprinkles holy water, and a man gently covers up a child's body with cloth.
One woman collapses to the ground.
"Why did you leave me behind?" she asks.
"Whom did you leave me with?"
"The world has forsaken us," another onlooker cries.
"The world has betrayed us."
Weapon remnants recovered from the site of the strike by aid workers showed internal components
and screw configurations that matched images of Turkish-made MAM-L munitions released by the weapons manufacturer.
The MAM-L pairs exclusively with the Turkish-made TB-2 drone.
"On a lot of these new drone-dropped weapons, the bodies and internal electronics can appear similar,
but each manufacturer uses different screw configurations to attach the wings to the fuselage of the munition,"
said Brian Castner, a weapons investigator for Amnesty International.
The MAM-Ls have a four-screw pattern, he said.
Other images of shrapnel, which reveal different components of the laser-guided munition's wings,
corroborated this analysis.
The nearly 50-pound weapon used in Dedebit can travel roughly nine miles from the time it is released
until its impact.
It is meant for targets such as tanks, light armored vehicles or personnel, according to the manufacturer's website.
A comparison of high-resolution satellite imagery taken before and after the strike reveals a four-by-three meter hole
in the roof of the primary school.
"The damage to the red roof and interior of the building looks consistent with a weapon
of this size," Castner told The Post.
He cautioned that this did not necessarily mean the primary school had indeed been the intended target.
A shift toward drones
For much of the conflict, definitive open-source evidence showed the Ethiopian government
had a small number of Chinese commercial drones that had been used by the country's police, and a cadre
of unarmed Israeli-made drones.
By late 2021, Ethiopia had dramatically expanded its fleet of drones.
Turkey sold drones to Ethiopia as recently as October, Reuters reported, citing officials with knowledge
of the agreement, well into a war marked by rounds of atrocities against civilians.
( GAGRULE )