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Raid leaves Ethiopian town deserted

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The Ethiopian mountain town of Adigrat was almost deserted on Friday after a bombing raid by Eritrea on Thursday that residents said left at least four dead and 30 wounded.

Most inhabitants, fearing further attack, have fled to surrounding villages, local officials said, while those remaining huddled in their houses.Witnesses said two helicopters flew high over the town at around 5.30 p.m. local time on Thursday and dropped four bombs by parachute.

Ten minutes later, a jet fired rockets around the offices of the local relief association, hitting a grain store.

Twenty-four hours ago, Adigrat was bulging with residents and up to 15,000 people displaced in a border conflict between former allies Ethiopia and Eritrea that started on May 6.

On Friday the streets were empty except for the odd military vehicle.

At the local hospital a woman, seven months pregnant, lay rocking back and forth on a bed. She had been injured by shrapnel in the attack.

A mother comforted her baby of two months whose chest and legs were wrapped in bloody bandages after he was hit by shrapnel.

One injured man, Birhan Abhra, told Reuters: "We were gathering to get some food and the airplane came over. While I was running and shouting to people to run, I was injured."

A hospital doctor said many patients including seriously injured victims of the attack had fled in fear of a repeat raid.

The remaining patients rested in beds or on trolleys.

Thousands of grain sacks destined for displaced Ethiopians were destroyed by fire when rockets hit, local officials said.

The store itself was little more than a burned-out shell with the blackened hulk of a truck inside. Outside, the earth was burned and charred where the rockets exploded.

Teke Hishe, a worker at the local relief office, told Reuters almost 5,000 displaced people were gathered around the relief center when the bombing took place.

"The helicopter flew very high and dropped two big bombs with parachutes which drifted toward the edge of town," Teke said.

"After three minutes a jet came. We thought it was our jet. But then it started to fire rockets," he said.

The Horn of Africa conflict escalated on June 5 and 6 with tit-for-tat air raids on the Eritrean capital Asmara and the Ethiopian town of Mekele.