GIJET, 25 February 2021 – Fires that appeared to have been deliberately set have destroyed more than 500 structures this week in and around Ethiopia’s Gijet town.
Satellite imagery shared with media outlets lend credence to reports that fighting and atrocities continue in the armed conflict in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali declared victory over the Tigray People’s Liberation Force (TPLF) at the end of November 2020 and claimed that fighting was over.
The United Nations, ousted and on-the-run TPLF leaders as well as residents of Tigray have insisted that sporadic fighting continues.
Addis Ababa has acknowledged sporadic exchange of gunfire, but insists that most of the fighting has come to a halt.
The head of Tigray’s government-appointed interim administration, Mulu Nega, told reporters Thursday in the Tigray capital, Mekelle, that he has sent a team to Gijet to investigate the fires.
The DX Open Network, a security research organization based in Britain, analysed images collected by private satellite operator Planet Labs on Sunday and Tuesday around Gijet and three nearby settlements, about 35 km (22 miles) southwest of Mekelle.
The imagery shows that at least 508 structures were razed to the ground during the week under consideration.
The DX Open Network said the absence of fire clusters or scorch marks connecting burnt structures in the images it analysed makes it unlikely that the fires were all accidenta.
The network said there was no evidence of craters to suggest the fires might be the result of shelling.
Rights group say both sides in the Tigray conflict have accused each other of abuses and denied responsibility for carrying them out.