The Tigray People’s Liberation Front has claimed responsibility for the shootdown of an Ethiopian Air Force C-130 near the town of Gijet in the south of Ethiopia’s Tigray Province.
In a Twitter post, TPLF spokesperson Getachew Reda said that TPLF anti-air units had shot down the C-130, which according to him had been carrying explosives and ammunition in addition to personnel. He added that military personnel wearing Eritrean camouflage uniforms had been found amidst the wreckage of the aircraft, which was completely destroyed on impact.
While the exact circumstances of the shootdown remain unknown, preliminary reports suggest that the C-130 was shot down while descending to land, raising the possibility that it was downed by MANPADS rather than the surface-to-air missile batteries known to have been captured by TPLF forces. With only six active cargo aircraft of varying capacities in total according to FlightGlobal, the loss of one of the Ethiopian Air Force’s two active C-130s is a major blow to Addis Ababa’s ability to move personnel and equipment into Tigray as the civil war grinds on.
The downing of the C-130 comes after an Ethiopian Air Force airstrike on a market in the Tigrayan town of Togoga killed 80 people and injured 43 on Tuesday. A UN official that spoke to the New York Times on condition of anonymity said that Ethiopian Red Cross ambulances had been denied access to the site of the airstrike by military forces, while a doctor at the Ayder Hospital in Mekelle, Tigray’s capital, said that the military had blocked 20 of the hospital’s ambulances from leaving the hospital compound.
Fighting in Tigray has intensified in recent days, with the TPLF launching an offensive coinciding with the Ethiopian general election on 21 June. Tigrayan forces are reported to have briefly taken control of the town of Adigrat, capturing weapons and supplies from the garrison in the town and retreating before federal reinforcements could arrive. Media outlets affiliated with the TPLF have also released footage of dozens of prisoners of war said to have been recently captured by Tigrayan forces, with Getachew calling on the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international non-governmental organizations to assist in providing food for those captured.