Dozens of people were killed when a government airstrike slammed into a busy market in northern Ethiopia, medics and witnesses said, as fighting intensified in the restive Tigray region where federal forces are struggling to contain a broadening insurgency.

The airstrike appeared to be one of the deadliest single incidents of the eight-month civil war that has sullied the international reputation of Ethiopia’s Nobel Peace Prize winning leader, Abiy Ahmed. The attack was on Tuesday in Togoga, 15 miles west of the Tigrayan regional capital, Mekelle.

A day later, on Wednesday, Tigrayan rebels struck back against the government when fighters shot down an Ethiopian Air Forces C-130 transport plane as it approached Mekelle, causing it to smash into a field about 15 miles south of the city, according to the rebels and witnesses.

It pointed to an intensifying fight in Tigray, where fighters led by Ethiopia’s one-time ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front, captured areas south of Mekelle that until recently were controlled by soldiers from Eritrea. The rebels say they have captured several thousand Ethiopian soldiers and were holding them as prisoners of war.

A spokeswoman for Mr. Abiy referred questions to the military. A spokesman with Ethiopia’s military could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Abiy had hoped to deflect from international criticism of the war in Tigray, which has prompted many reports of massacres, sexual assault and ethnic cleansing, with national elections on Monday.

The vote was intended to signal Ethiopia’s move away from decades of harsh autocratic rule. But as before, violence in Tigray reared its head. Also as before, civilians paid the highest price.

On Tuesday,

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