Ethiopian troops search hospital for enemy 'soldiers': doctors

Ethiopian troops were sent into Tigray in November to detain and disarm leaders of the region's once dominant ruling party
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Ethiopian soldiers interrogated patients at a hospital in the country's war-hit Tigray region twice this week in an apparent search for enemy fighters, two doctors told AFP Wednesday.

The incidents occurred Sunday and Monday in the city of Axum, disrupting treatment and prompting some patients to flee, said the doctors, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.

The soldiers removed bandages and intravenous fluids from some patients, entered and contaminated an operating room and pointed their guns at doctors and nurses who objected, one doctor said.

"Our staff are so frightened that we are not able to do our treatment activities," he said.

Medical charity Doctors Without Borders, which is supporting the Axum hospital, confirmed in a statement that soldiers arrived Sunday and Monday and "went ward by ward looking for patients, intimidating caretakers and threatening health staff".

The group, known by its French acronym MSF, said it was "very concerned about the frequent violations of the neutrality of the medical mission by armed groups" in Tigray.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, winner of the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize, sent troops into Tigray last November to detain and disarm leaders of the region's once dominant ruling party, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).

He said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps.

Though he vowed the conflict would be brief, more than six months later fighting continues and world leaders are warning of a potential humanitarian catastrophe.

The soldiers in Axum appeared to be looking for pro-TPLF fighters, the doctors said, adding that they did not take any patients away with them.

"If they see any wounded patient, they go to that patient and ask, 'Are you a soldier with TPLF?'" one doctor said.

The Axum hospital was featured in a recent report by CNN, and the doctors said they suspected that is why it was targeted.

The head of a military command post in Tigray and a spokeswoman for the region's interim administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment Wednesday.