The Bombing of Adigrat Reconsidered

January 20, 1999

Eritrean News Agency (ERINA) Daily Update
Friday, June 12, 1998
Eritrean air force planes have bombed military targets in Adi-Grat yesterday evening. Since Ethiopia's declaration of war on May 13th, Adi-Grat has been transformed into the main garrison for reinforcing the invading Ethiopian army and a center for army logistics.

NOTE - by this logic, Ethiopia would be justified in randomly bombing Asmara - the logistical center of Eritrea's war effort.

Ethiopia War May Be Rooted in Trade ; AP, June 20, 1998
By Dianna Cahn; Associated Press Writer

"ADIGRAT, Ethiopia (AP) -- The barrage of Eritrean bombs that struck this city last week killed four people and destroyed a desperately needed supply of grain.

But the attack's intended target, the Adigrat Pharmaceutical Factory, was spared. The plant is a gleaming symbol of what Ethiopians believe is the underlying cause of this war: Eritrea's resentment over its neighbor's economic development.

Two bombs fell 300 yards short of the $24.5 million plant, one of the many modern factories that provide Ethiopia's Tigray region with a measure of self-sufficiency and deny Eritrea a traditional market for its goods.

Ethiopia/Eritrea Bombing Adigrat; VOA, June 11, 1998

Eritrean jets and helicopter gunships attacked Adigrat just past five PM local time. They dropped eight bombs, narrowly missing a church and pharmaceuticals factory, and scoring a direct hit on a grain warehouse where people worked through the night to put out burning fires of sorghum and clear away twisted metal roofing sheets.

Three civilians were killed waiting to collect food at the grain warehouse. Three bombs landed here, killing one in a nearby house, wounding more than a dozen civilians and destroying a storeroom.

BBC, June 11, 1998
By Jane Standley

"Witnesses said several helicopters and one warplane carried out the attack in which a grain silo was hit and set ablaze. Four people were reportedly killed and another 30 wounded.

A BBC correspondent in Adigrat spoke of injured civilians lining the corridors of the town's hospital, and of children screaming in pain as staff treated their shrapnel wounds.

Ethiopians bury their dead; BBC, June 12, 1998
By Jane Standley

Jane Standley reports from the northern Ethiopian town of Adigrat, where people are preparing to bury their dead after an Eritrean bombing raid:

There's an air of shock and disbelief in the small dusty town of Adigrat as the people here prepare to bury their dead.

Many are afraid that there will be another raid on the town and some say they want to pack up what possessions they have and leave.

But the closest major town, Mekele, has also been bombed by Eritrean war-planes and no-one feels safe. The front-line is close by and more than 100 military casualties from the increasingly bitter border dispute are being treated in Adigrat's small hospital.

Now civilians from the bombing raid lie in beds along the corridors and on mattresses on the floor. The youngest is only eighteen months old.

Yesterday's attack by the Eritreans seems to have been aimed primarily at economic targets. Bombs fell close to a much-prized pharmaceutical factory which has only just opened in this desperately poor region, and a grain store for the most needy was hit. It burned late into the night as people tried to salvage what they could.

Ethiopians Displaced by Fighting Inundate Town; Los Angeles Times, June 20, 1998
By JOHN DANISZEWSKI, Times Staff Writer

" In Adigrat, the largest town near the front, flooded with displaced refugees and targeted last week by an Eritrean bombing that killed four people and wounded more than 30, the human toll already has been enormous.

Abady Tesfye, a day laborer and father of seven, seemed close to tears as he described how he watched from the distance while his house was destroyed by shelling in the border town of Zalambessa, 19 miles north of Adigrat.

He said he was asleep at home around dawn when he heard fighting. At first, it seemed limited to the border crossing, but eventually he realized that the town itself was being shelled. That is when he took his family and ran.

"I just have the clothes on my back," he said. "My house was burned. . . . The Eritreans targeted it with artillery." He said he watched the attack from one of the brightly painted, pagoda-shaped Ethiopian Orthodox churches that dot the mountainsides around Adigrat, and "half the town was destroyed."

An Eritrean military source told The Associated Press that the factory was targeted not to thwart Ethiopia's development but to stop it from supplying medicines for the Ethiopian war effort - AP, June 20 1998

On the afternoon of June 11, 1998, a military transport helicopter circled slowly over the northern Ethiopian town of Adigrat. The helicopter appeared over the western end of town and then made its way to the newly opened Addis Pharmaceuticals Factory at the eastern end of Adigrat.

Simret, a 26-year old resident of Adigrat had worked in the factory since it opened. On this day, it was nearing the end of her shift, and she was outside near the administration area of the plant, watching with curiosity as the helicopter approached.

Simret did not remember that Eritrean president Issayas Afeworqi had visited the pharmaceuticals plant two years earlier, but she did remember the visit by Yemane Gebreab - (Eritrean presidential spokesman and a key figure in Issayas' clique). Yemane Gebreab had toured the plant in 1997, and had received the hospitality of the plant management and its workers.

But now, unknown to Simret, the helicopter circling overhead had been sent by the Eritrean dictator. Its mission was to destroy the plant while the workers were still inside. Yemane Gebreab, would later issue an appalling crude explanation for this attack on a civilian target.

The approaching helicopter came low enough that Simret thought it was planning to land in the field adjacent to the factory. Instead, when it was nearly overhead, two white objects descended rapidly from the helicopter. The helicopter then immediately shot upwards and fled across the mountainous horizon towards the east.

The white objects were small parachutes with bombs suspended underneath. The bombs descended rapidly and exploded with tremendous force upon impact. The shock wave shattered most of the windows in the factory and very nearly knocked Simret to the ground. Thankfully, the bombs missed their target by about 200 meters, landing in an adjacent field and producing impact craters over 5 feet deep and with diameters of about 10 feet.

Had the bombs been on-target, it is almost a certain that Simret would have been killed. The victims of the jet attack on the Adigrat storehouse were not so fortunate. The Eritrean attack jet appeared over Adigrat shortly after the helicopter disappeared. (See attached news reports for description of this attack and its aftermath)

Eritrean Air Force - Operational Tactics:
In all their bombing raids, the Eritrean Air Force jets have never made more than a single pass over their supposed targets. No flyovers for target identification, no bomb damage assessment. The Eritrean pilots simply drop their bombs wherever they may land and immediately flee the scene.

It is a hit and run strategy that aims to terrorize Ethiopian civilians.

When asked if she would like Ethiopia to take revenge and drop bombs on Eritrean civilians, Simret replies: "No. It is only the weak and cowardly that lash out at civilians. I only want their military camps to be destroyed."

More News References: (Numerous Foreign Correspondents were in or near Adigrat when it was attacked by Eritrea. Their reporting demolishes the pathetic Eritrean propaganda about destroying Ethiopian military targets in Adigrat)

A conflict that borders on the insane ; The Guardian (UK), June 16, 1998
By David Gough

"Letgebriel Getsadik was making tea in her two-room house in Adigrat, northern Ethiopia, when she heard the plane overhead. She remembers shouts from the street calling on people to flee their houses. Picking up her two-month-old baby Angosom, she rushed out towards the shelter of a tree, but both she and the baby were hit by flying shrapnel from cluster bombs dropped by the Eritrean jet.

Goitom Mesele, a 27-year-old teacher, lying on his side on the bed next to her in Adigrat hospital, nursed back wounds suffered during the raid, which killed four and injured 30.

He was collecting the food distributed to people like himself displaced by the fighting when the bombs fell. "It was as if the skies were raining metal. I don't know why the Eritreans are doing this to us, but I do know that until they leave our land we are going to fight. If God allows it, I will take revenge for this cowardly attack."

The victims of this bombing raid on the village of Adigrat last Thursday were the latest civilian casualties in the border conflict, which threatens to escalate into all-out war.

Ethiopians are shaking their heads in disbelief.

Ethiopia/Eritrea Bombing; VOA, June 12, 1998

"Eritrean attack helicopters and jets bombed Adigrat, narrowly missing a church and a pharmaceutical factory, destroying a grain warehouse.

Workers clear twisted metal roofing sheets from piles of smoldering sorghum, blasted cans of cooking oil, and torn plastic food sacks melted in the heat of more than seven hours of fire.

Three people were killed by cluster bombs in the warehouse courtyard, a fourth in small stone house just over the wall.

Genet Tadesse was hit in the side of her head with shrapnel. Genet says she was too shocked to think about what was happening, just shocked. She says she saw herself lying on the ground and people running around outside the warehouse.

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