KAMPALA, Uganda (AP) — An Ethiopian national working for an Italian charity was killed in the war-hit Tigray region on Saturday after he was “hit by a stray bullet”, according to his employer.
Negasi Kidane, from the Tigrayan city of Adigrat, had been employed by the International Committee for the Development of Peoples since 2016. The group is known by its Italian initials, CISP.
He is the ninth aid worker reported killed in Tigray since fighting broke out there nearly seven months ago.
“Our colleague Negasi Kidane, head of the CISP office in Adigrat, in the Ethiopian Region of Tigray, lost his life last Saturday,” the group said in a statement on Facebook. “(H)e was accidentally involved in a fire fight on Friday evening.”
“He was hospitalized for serious injuries, but he didn’t make it,” the statement added.
It is not clear who fired the bullet that killed Kidane, said Sandro De Luca, CISP’s director and legal representative.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed sent troops into Tigray in early November after the region’s former leaders, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, or TPLF, were accused of attacking a federal army base there.
Abiy has described the move as a “law enforcement operation” intended to round up members of the TPLF, but subsequent fighting has killed thousands and left 5.2 million of Tigray’s six million population in need of food assistance. Eritrean troops are fighting on the side of Ethiopian government forces.
The government has said it has provided “full and unhindered access for humanitarian actors to operate in all parts of the region,” but aid agencies say they have been turned back at army checkpoints and denied access to certain regions.
“Humanitarian access in Tigray remains extremely fluid and volatile,” said the UN’s aid agency in an update issued last week. “While some areas were accessible, others remain hard to reach due to movement restrictions and ongoing conflict. In the areas accessed, the humanitarian situation is observed to be dire.”
United States officials have accused warring parties of deliberately targeting aid workers.
Samantha Power, chief of USAID, said last week an Ethiopian national working for her agency had been killed in Tigray, “reportedly by Eritrean and Ethiopian soldiers.”
“This recent targeting of a humanitarian worker was clearly intentional and is part of a troubling rise in harassment and violence against aid workers,” she said.
In December the Danish Refugee Council said three of its security guards had been killed in Tigray. The same month the International Rescue Committee reported the killing of one of its staff members in the Hitsats refugee camp near Shire.
Dutch aid group ZOA International also said one of its staff members was “murdered” in Hitsats in December. A United Nations team that reached the camp in March said it had been “completely destroyed.”