In a statement, the organization said three staff members were traveling in a “clearly marked” MSF vehicle on Tuesday on the road from Mekelle, the regional capital, to Adigrat, about 120 km (75 miles) further north when the attack took place.
“During the trip, they encountered what appeared to be the aftermath of an Ethiopian military convoy ambushed by another armed group, in which soldiers were wounded and killed. The military vehicles were still on fire, ”MSF said on Wednesday in a statement attributed to Karline Kleijer, its emergency program manager.
“Ethiopian soldiers present at the scene stopped the MSF car and two public transport minibuses driving behind. The soldiers then forced the passengers to leave the minibuses. The men were separated from the women, who were allowed to leave. Shortly after, the men were shot, ”he added.
“We are horrified by the continuing violence in #Tigray , #Ethiopia. This includes the extrajudicial killings of at least 4 men who were dragged off public buses and executed by soldiers, while our staff members were present, on Tuesday March 23 ”
Read: https://t.co/q7uA1FIZNf pic.twitter.com/NM5G7cS7Le
– MSF East Africa (@MSF_EastAfrica) 24 mars 2021
“The MSF team was allowed to leave the area but saw the bodies of those killed on the side of the road.”
A short distance away, the soldiers again stopped their vehicle, brought out their driver and beat him with the back of a gun, threatening to kill him, the association said. Eventually, the driver was cleared back into the vehicle and the team returned to Mekelle.
“This horrific event further underscores the need to protect civilians during this ongoing conflict, and for armed groups to respect the delivery of humanitarian aid, including medical aid,” MSF said.
“Our teams are still in shock to have witnessed the senseless loss of life caused by this latest attack.”
Al Jazeera has contacted the office of Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed for comment but has not received a response at the time of publication.
Abiy, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, ordered an offensive land and air campaign in Tigray in November 2020 after accusing the region’s ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), of attacking the camps of the federal army. He said the fighting ended at the end of November with the capture of Mekelle, but it continued.
The exact number of dead in the conflict remains uncertain, but thousands of people are believed to have been killed. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced. Residents of Tigray, home to more than five million people, have described massacres, widespread sexual violence and indiscriminate killings of civilians.
After months of denials, Abiy admitted on Tuesday that forces from neighboring Eritrea were in Tigray and admitted atrocities had been committed.
“The battle is destructive, it hurts a lot, there is no doubt about it. There was damage in the Tigray region, ”he said.
Abiy said soldiers who raped women or committed other war crimes will be held accountable, although he cited “exaggerated propaganda” from the TPLF.
The prime minister accused TPLF leaders of launching “a war narrative” as the region faced challenges such as a destructive locust invasion and the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was inappropriate and untimely arrogance,” he said.
Ethiopia’s state-appointed Human Rights Commission on Wednesday corroborated reports from human rights groups that a massacre took place in Axum in November, saying more than 100 people were killed by Eritrean troops.