Gunmen attacked Ethiopia’s western Oromiya region on Saturday, killing at least 320 civilians. Survivors called the massacre one of the deadliest in Ethiopia in years, according to reports on Sunday.
There was no indication that the attack was linked to a conflict in the northern Tigray region that began in November 2020 and resulted in the deaths of thousands and the displacement of millions.
Earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed condemned “horrific acts” in Oromiya without providing any information. On Twitter, he added: “The attacks on innocent residents and the destruction of livelihoods by unlawful and irregular forces are intolerable.”
Attacks on innocent civilians and the destruction of livelihoods by illegal and irregular forces are unacceptable. There is no tolerance for the horrific acts that have claimed lives recently in Beninshangul and Oromia regions by elements whose main objective is to terrorize the communities.1/2
— Abiy Ahmed Ali 🇪🇹 (@AbiyAhmedAli) June 20, 2022
Home to Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, as well as members of other ethnic groups, Oromiya has been plagued by instability for years amid frustrations over political marginalization and central government neglect. Abiy is an Oromo and Ethiopia’s first Prime Minister, although some Oromo believe he has abandoned community interests.
The victims, according to two residents who described the incident on Saturday, were of ethnic Amhara, a minority in the area.
There was no evidence that the attack was linked to a conflict in the northern Tigray region that began in November 2020 and has killed thousands and displaced millions.
The incident took place in the western region of Oromia, in the Gimbi region of the western zone of Wollega. One resident reported that 260 people had been killed, while another said there were 320. Residents feared for their safety and refused to reveal their names.
On Sunday, a witness said the local Amhara population yearned to be relocated “before another round of mass executions”, adding that ethnic Amharas who had been resettled in the area for about 30 years were being “slaughtered like chickens”.
The Oromia Regional Government blamed the Oromo Liberation Army in a statement, saying the rebels attacked “after being unable to repel [federal] security force operations.
The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) is a banned splinter group from the Oromo Liberation Front, a once-banned opposition organization that returned from exile after Abiy took over the government in 2018. Last year, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which fights the federal government of Ethiopia’s northern region, entered into an alliance with the group. There was no indication that the TPLF was involved in the attack on Gimbi on Saturday.
A new government offensive forced the OLA to evacuate some places where it had previously exercised significant influence in recent months. The massacre comes after the group launched a series of counterattacks last week.
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