Ethiopia used the flagship commercial airline of the country as a military transport, according to officials and reports from the government-run Ethiopian News Agency.
The government contends it is responding to “false allegations” by the country’s largest opposition party, the Democratic Unity for Change.
According to government reports, security forces in Tigray launched an aerial assault on a rebel camp in January, after Ethiopian Airlines flight ELO9027 was told the cargo onboard required handling by the government.
A government report, seen by The Associated Press, alleges the camp had declared its location on the Ethiopian air map and the plane had traveled more than 50 minutes before ordering a ground landing.
Toedisa Tesfaye, a spokesman for the DMC party, said officials used the plane to transport rocket launchers before and during the war.
“The aircraft was on the flight log and flights information,” Tesfaye said. “They have [used the plane] twice.”
Under rules of NATO, civilian flights cannot be used as military transports.
Many governments use commercial planes and helicopters to transport troops or supplies to war zones. And Ethiopia has used the Tu-154 aircraft before.
“They fly for a number of different places. Civilian Airlines is not included,” a government spokesperson told The New York Times.
The Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) came to power in 1991 and has been accused by human rights groups of seeking dominance and having a poor human rights record. The government has attempted to crack down on dissent by imprisoning and torturing opposition leaders and journalists.
VOA and The Associated Press contributed to this report.