Government says it targeted facilities to make and repair weapons in Mekelle. Rival Tigray forces deny the site was related to weapons, calling it a garage "with many old tires."

People run next to black smoke and flames in the aftermath at the scene of an air strike in Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region on October 20, 2021.
People run next to black smoke and flames in the aftermath at the scene of an air strike in Mekelle, the capital of the Tigray region on October 20, 2021. (AP)

New air strikes have hit the capital of Ethiopia's Tigray region and another community, as a video from Mekelle showed wounded people with bloodied faces being rushed to vehicles and thick black smoke rising in the sky. 

Ethiopia's government said it targeted facilities to make and repair weapons, which a spokesman for the rival Tigray forces denied on Wednesday.

"Indeed there have been air strikes in Mekelle today," Ethiopian government spokesman Legesse Tulu told the AP news agency, saying they targeted facilities at the Mesfin Industrial Engineering site that Tigray forces use to make and repair heavy weapons.

Legesse said the air strikes had "no intended harm to civilians."

At least 14 people were wounded in the air strikes in Mekelle and three were in critical condition, Hayelom Kebede, the former director of Tigray's flagship Ayder Referral Hospital, told the AP.

READ MORE: Ethiopian government denies reports of air strikes on Tigray capital

Second strike 

Another air strike hours later hit Agbe between the communities of Hagere Selam and Tembien, Legesse said, describing the site as a "centre of military training and heavy artillery depot."

A Tigray spokesman denied the Mekelle site was related to weapons. "Not at all," Kindeya Gebrehiwot told the AP, calling it a garage "with many old tires. That is why it is still blazing."

Amit Abrha, who said she was a worker at the site, said she didn't hear the air strike coming and collapsed when the attack occurred.

"People picked me up. And when the explosions continued, I went out and saw a person that I know injured and on the ground," she said in video footage obtained by the AP, as the smoke billowed behind her and fellow residents tried to control the flames.

READ MORE: Ethiopia army starts ground offensive against Tigray forces in Amhara

UN reducing staff

The attack came two days after Ethiopia's air force confirmed air strikes in Mekelle that a witness said killed three children, a claim the government denies.

The air force said communications towers and equipment were attacked. Mekelle hadn't seen fighting since June when Tigray forces retook much of the region in a dramatic turn in the war.

Meanwhile, the UN told The Associated Press it is slashing by more than half its Tigray presence as an Ethiopian government blockade halts humanitarian aid efforts and people die from lack of food.

The war in Africa's second-most populous country has ground on for nearly a year between Ethiopian and allied forces and the Tigray ones who long dominated the national government before a falling-out with Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner.

READ MORE: UN warns of crisis in Ethiopia's Tigray, calls for end to killing and rape

Source: AP