Ethiopia: Survivors describe being shot by soldiers in Tigray

Twenty injured people treated at hospitals supported by MSF

Panoramic view of the town of Adwa, in Tigray, northern Ethiopia

Ethiopia 2021 © Igor Barbero/MSF

On the morning of April 12, soldiers traveling in several vehicles opened fire near a bus station in the town of Adwa, in Ethiopia's Tigray region, causing multiple deaths and serious injuries, according to survivors treated by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

"The indiscriminate shooting of people far from a front line is shocking—in a public place, in a big town, in a busy moment of the day," said Maricarmen Viñoles, the head of MSF's emergency unit. "We urge all armed parties to this conflict to protect and respect people's lives."

Twenty injured people were brought to Adwa's Kidane Meheret hospital, 12 of whom had critical injuries and were transferred to a hospital in Axum. Both hospitals are supported by MSF. 

MSF initially called attention to this incident on April 13, and these new accounts from survivors provide further information. Injured patients told MSF staff that soldiers fired in all directions, shooting people indiscriminately. 


Widespread destruction of health facilities in Ethiopia's Tigray region

A 75-year-old man told MSF staff that he was on his way home when he heard shooting coming from the bus station, perpetrated by soldiers wearing Eritrean army uniforms: 

"I saw three vehicles full of soldiers, coming in my direction. It all happened so fast. Suddenly I got hit. Before this, it was just an ordinary morning. I pass through that area every day; there was no military presence of any kind in that area until this happened. The soldiers were shooting in all directions, at everybody who was around. I remember seeing one person who fell to the ground and didn't move."

Among those injured was a man who works as a shoe shiner at Adwa's bus station:

"When I opened my shop that morning, I heard rumors about troops coming into town. I heard this so many times before and nothing happened, so I just stayed there. Suddenly I saw a military truck coming very fast. A bajaj [three-wheeled vehicle] that was coming from across the street blocked the road. Immediately the soldiers started shooting. People started shouting and running in every direction. I turned around and started running and that is when I was shot. I was hit three times in the back, once in my right shoulder and once in my left hand. I fell to the floor. This went on for about 10 minutes with intense shooting. After they left, people started to come to help and I could hear them saying that several people were dead. They helped me by putting clothes over my injuries and putting me in a bajaj that took me to Kidane Meheret hospital."

A 22-year old woman told MSF staff that she was injured while traveling to the market to buy tea leaves for her shop, together with another woman: 

"We were both inside a bajaj heading there when we started hearing the shooting from far away. I didn't see anything, or where it was coming from, until suddenly I was hit from behind in my right shoulder. The woman I was with got hit in her abdomen. I was losing a lot of blood until two men came and put some clothes over my injuries. They took me to Kidane Meheret hospital. I don't know what happened to the woman who was with me—she's not here in the hospital." 

MSF teams are providing medical care to people affected by the violence in Tigray, including the large numbers of displaced people in towns and cities such as Adwa, Axum, and Shire. MSF has worked in Ethiopia since 1984, helping to fill gaps in health services and responding to a range of emergency needs including malnutrition, malaria, acute watery diarrhea, and medical care for refugees.