Hundreds killed in ethnic conflict – witnesses

A deadly attack on civilians in Ethiopia’s Oromia region was reportedly one of the worst recent instances of violence

A surge of ethnic violence in Ethiopia last week, resulted in the killing of at least 200 civilians in the country’s Oromia region. The central government in Addis Ababa would not immediately confirm the reports but acknowledged attacks on innocent people.

“I have counted 230 bodies. I am afraid this is the deadliest attack against civilians we have seen in our lifetime,” Abdul-Seid Tahir, a resident of Gimbi county, told the Associated Press on Sunday.

The attacks reportedly targeted the Amhara ethnic community, one of the largest in the African country. Witnesses claimed that the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), an armed group seeking self-determination for the Oromo people, was responsible for the killings. They told the news agency that the militants were retaliating against the Amhara for a series of defeats suffered against government forces.

The group denied the allegations, saying that the “regime and local militia” were behind the atrocities. “Our fighters had not even reached that area when the attacks took place,” they said.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed Ali expressed outrage over “attacks on innocent civilians and the destruction of livelihoods by illegal and irregular forces”. In a statement on his Twitter account, he blamed “elements whose main objective is to terrorize communities” for the violence.

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Also on Sunday, the government-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission confirmed that a video circulating on social media since Friday showed extrajudicial killings by government forces. The organization said at least 30 people, who were allegedly part of the OLA, were killed in the incident that happened in December 2021.

The federal government of Ethiopia considers the OLA to be a terrorist organization and insists on calling them OLF-Shene, which was the name used by the Commission. Commenting on the surge of violence in the region, it called on the federal government to find a “lasting solution” for the crisis.

The Amhara people arrived in the Oromia region en masse three decades ago as part of a government-sponsored resettlement program. In the face of the attacks, they are now asking the government to help them move out of the area.

“The government has said they are listening, but no action has been taken. Once again, this kind of killing has become the norm,” Addis Ababa-based journalist Samuel Getachew said of the situation in an interview with Al Jazeera. He said government restrictions imposed on travel made it difficult to report on what was happening in Oromia.

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