Over a dozen of Ethiopian Airlines employees from Tigray are using the company’s planes to escape the country’s conflict, according to a report by CNN.
A conflict between the Ethiopian military and rebels in the Tigray region started more than a year ago. It is estimated that tens of thousands of people have been killed, the Associated Press reported late last year.
Multiple reports, including one from The Telegraph, say an ethnic purge is underway by government forces, with of thousands of ethnic Tigrayans put into “concentration camps,” tortured, and killed.
CNN reported that Tigrayan Ethiopian Airlines employees started hiding in the airline’s planes to escape the country, and that many of those employees’ family members have been killed.
Two employees, both aged 25, told CNN they hid in the plane’s cargo among crates of fresh flowers, on a flight to Belgium last December. CNN hid their real names in its report to protect their safety.
They both said told CNN that their families had been detained, and that they climbed into the plane to escape as it was sitting in a hangar before the flight. CNN reported that they were both ground technicians with the airline.
One of them told CNN that four of his relatives had been killed and that his fiancée is in prison.
“We took the risk. We were — we had no choice, we had no choice, we couldn’t live in Addis Ababa, we were being treated as terrorists.”
CNN estimated that a total of 16 Ethiopian Airlines technicians had escaped Ethiopia using the country’s planes, but said it was unable to independently verify this number.
Other people appeared to have used the plane’s ceilings to hide, CNN reported.