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1 dead as soldiers fire on protest in Tigray capital: doctor

One person was shot dead Tuesday when soldiers opened fire on an anti-government protest in the capital of Ethiopia’s conflict-hit northern Tigray region, a medical official said.

The protest in the city of Mekele was timed to coincide with a visit by religious leaders from the national capital Addis Ababa, part of an effort by the federal government to show that life is returning to normal in Tigray three months after fighting began.

Groups of young men used stones and burning tyres to block roads in central Mekele, and soldiers used live rounds in at least one location, several witnesses told AFP.

“One dead body already arrived” with gunshot wounds, said a doctor at Ayder Referral Hospital, adding that the victim was “a young man.”

There could be more casualties, said the doctor, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.

“The head of our transport division was injured. He was beaten by soldiers along with his son and he’s getting treatment in the hospital,” the doctor said.

“He told the physicians that there are lots of injured in the street but nobody is bringing them to the hospital.”

In early November, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed announced military operations against Tigray’s former ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), saying they responded to TPLF-orchestrated attacks on federal army camps.

Federal forces entered Mekele in late November, and Abiy declared at the time that fighting was “completed”.

But portions of Tigray remain insecure, hindering the distribution of humanitarian assistance, and aid workers are warning of possible widespread starvation.

Mekele residents have also complained that life is far from peaceful in the city, accusing soldiers of using lethal force to enforce a curfew.

President Sahle-Work Zewde visited Mekele over the weekend, telling residents that Abiy’s government was “working to fully restore peace and return the overall activity to normalcy.”

The religious leaders were expected to stay in Tigray for three days and meet with regional government officials and security forces.

Multiple Tigray residents told AFP that many businesses were closed Tuesday, a move intended to show anger with the federal government.

“The government is trying to show the international community that everything is going well in Tigray and peace is already completely stabilised,” said one resident, who also requested anonymity for safety reasons.

“It was like the protest was to prevent this false information,” he said.

Officials from the caretaker administration in Tigray did not respond to requests for comment.

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