World news

US warns pilots of weapon fire as war nears Ethiopia's capital

Planes sit on the tarmac at Bole International Airport in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Wednesday, March 10, 2021. The United States Federal Aviation Administration warned pilots that planes operating at the airport could be "directly or indirectly exposed to ground weapons fire and/or surface-to-air fire," citing the "ongoing clashes" between Ethiopian forces and fighters from the northern Tigray region (AP Photo/Cara Anna) 

The United States has warned pilots that planes operating at one of Africa’s busiest airports could be “directly or indirectly exposed to ground weapons fire and/or surface-to-air fire” as Ethiopia’s war nears the capital, Addis Ababa.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) advisory cites the “ongoing clashes” between Ethiopian forces and fighters from the northern Tigray region, which have left thousands of people dead.

The US this week urged its citizens in Ethiopia to “leave now”, saying there should be no expectation of an Afghanistan-style evacuation.

The Addis Ababa international airport is the hub for the state-owned Ethiopian Airlines, a symbol of Ethiopia’s former status as one of the world’s most rapidly growing economies before the war.

Addis Ababa is also the continent’s diplomatic capital as home of the African Union.

The FAA advisory notes no reports of disruptions at Bole International Airport and “no indication of an intent to threaten civil aviation”, but it says the risk to approaching and departing planes could increase if the Tigray fighters encircle the capital.

In an acknowledgment of the airport’s importance for onward travel for the African continent and beyond, the UK minister for Africa Vicky Ford last week told reporters that Britain now advises against all travel to Ethiopia apart from the airport for departures and transfers.

The Tigray forces, who had long dominated the national government before current Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018, have approached Addis Ababa in recent weeks and joined up with another armed group, the Oromo Liberation Army, with the aim of pressing Mr Abiy to step aside.

The Tigray forces also say they are pressuring Ethiopia’s government to lift a blockade on the Tigray region, which includes an Ethiopian government restriction on flights over Tigray.

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

World news