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- CNN investigation alleges that Ethiopian Airlines used its planes to transport weapons to and from Eritrea.
- If true, the scandal could jeopardize Ethiopian Airlines’ membership in the lucrative Star Alliance.
- Ethiopian Airlines claims it “strictly complies with all National, regional and International aviation related regulations”.
Ethiopia’s flag carrier has been accused in new CNN investigative report of illegally transporting weapons from Ethiopia to Eritrea during the bloody civil war in Tigray.
The CNN investigation cited “cargo documents and manifests,” and “eyewitness accounts and photographic evidence” that confirmed weapons were transported on Ethiopian Airlines planes between the international airport in Addis Ababa and Eritrean airports in Asmara and Massawa in November 2020.
On waybills examined, the news outlet found that “on at least six occasions — from November 9 to November 28 — Ethiopian Airlines billed Ethiopia’s ministry of defense tens of thousands of dollars for military items to be shipped to Eritrea.”
Air waybills, which are document that accompanies goods shipped by an international air courier to provide detailed information about the shipment and allow it to be tracked, demonstrated that equipment shipped included guns, ammunition, and even specially-armored vehicles.
Terms and abbreviations including “Military refill,” “AM” for ammunition and “RIFFLES” (a misspelling of rifles) appeared on the waybills, according to the CNN investigation, which also cited interviews with airline employees who confirmed the terms.
A former Ethiopian Airlines cargo worker told the investigators:
“The cars were Toyota pickups which have a stand for snipers. I got a call from the managing director late at night informing me to handle the cargo. Soldiers came at 5 am to start loading two big trucks loaded with weapons and the pickups. I had to stop a flight to Brussels, a Boeing 777 cargo plane, which was loaded with flowers, then we unloaded half of the perishable goods to make space for the armaments.”
Ethiopian Airlines has denied the incident, stating it “strictly complies with all national, regional and international aviation related regulations” and that “to the best of its knowledge and its records, it has not transported any war armament in any of its routes by any of its aircraft.”
This latest statement marks a noticeable step back from the airline’s earlier statement blatantly denying it transported any weapons during the conflict.
If true, the investigation claims are a violation of international aviation law, which prohibits using civilian aircraft to transport military weapons. It could also jeopardize Ethiopian Airlines’ membership in the lucrative Star Alliance, a group of 26 global airlines.