Three employees of the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières (Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF) were “violently murdered” in Ethiopia’s Tigray region, the organization said.
The group said in a statement that emergency coordinator Maria Hernandez, deputy coordinator Yohannes Halefom Reda and driver Tedros Gebremariam Gebremichael were traveling on Thursday afternoon when he lost contact with them. Their bodies were found a few meters from the vehicle they were using on Friday morning, MSF said, without providing details of the exact location.
“We condemn this attack on our colleagues in the strongest terms and will strive to understand relentlessly what happened,” MSF added.
We are horrified and saddened to confirm that 3 MSF staff were killed in Tigray, Ethiopia.
Our deepest condolences go out to their families. We condemn this attack in the strongest terms and we will learn tirelessly what happened.
Statement to come.
– Doctors Without Borders (@MSF_USA) June 25, 2021
“No words can truly express all of our sadness, shock and outrage at this horrific attack, nor will they soothe the loss and suffering of their families and loved ones to whom we send our deepest condolences.”
The death of Spanish national Hernandez and Ethiopian nationals Reda and Gebremichael was “a devastating blow to all of us who are part of the organization both in Ethiopia and in other countries where MSF operates around the world,” the statement said. .
No further details were immediately available.
Thousands of people killed
On November 4, 2020, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordered an offensive land and air campaign in Tigray, after blaming the ruling party in the region, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Tigray (TPLF), for the attacks on the Tigray people. federal army camps. The TPLF, which dominated national politics for decades until Abiy came to power in 2018, said federal forces and its longtime enemy Eritrea launched a “coordinated attack” against him.
Abiy declared victory at the end of November with the capture of the regional capital Mekelle. The fighting, however, continued as fears of protracted conflict would have devastating effects on the civilian population.
The exact number of dead in the conflict remains uncertain, but thousands of people are believed to have been killed, including at least two million internally displaced people. Residents of Tigray, home to nearly six million people, have described massacres, widespread sexual violence and indiscriminate killings of civilians.
Earlier this month, the United Nations said about 350,000 people are facing starvation conditions due to “catastrophic” food shortages, with another two million “just steps away.”
News of the murder of MSF staff sparked a wave of grief on social media.
“Shocked, dismayed and saddened by the tragic news of the murder of three MSF colleagues in #Ethiopia,” tweeted Robert Mardini, director general of the International Committee of the Red Cross. “This is unacceptable.”
This is unacceptable.
– Robert Mardini (@RMardiniICRC) June 25, 2021
Ida Sawyer, deputy director of Africa at Human Rights Watch, also offered the rights group’s condolences.
“Horrified to learn of the brutal killings of three MSF staff, who were doing incredibly courageous and important work to serve the war-affected communities in Tigray,” Sawyer wrote on Twitter.
Horrified to hear about the brutal murders of three @MSF staff, who were doing incredibly courageous + important work to serve war-affected communities by #Tiger #Ethiopia. Our most sincere condolences to their families, colleagues + friends, @hrw https://t.co/TThzZvfbQR
– Ida Sawyer (@ida_sawyer) June 25, 2021
In March, MSF staff traveling from Mekelle to Adigrat, some 120 km (75 miles) further north, saw Ethiopian soldiers kill “at least four” civilians.
At the time, a statement attributed to MSF emergency program manager Karline Kleijer described how Ethiopian soldiers stopped MSF’s car and two public transport minibuses driving behind, forcing passengers to get off.
“The men were separated from the women, who were allowed to go away. Shortly after, the men were shot, ”the statement read.
“The MSF team was allowed to leave the area but saw the bodies of those killed on the side of the road.