Witnesses in Ethiopia on Sunday said more than 200 people, mostly of ethnic Amhara, were killed in an attack in the country’s Oromia region and blame a rebel group, which denies it.
It is one of the deadliest such attacks in recent memory as ethnic tensions continue in Africa’s second most populous country.
“I counted 230 bodies. I’m afraid this is the deadliest attack on civilians we’ve seen in our lifetimes,” Gimbi County resident Abdul-Seid Tahir told AFP. ‘Associated Press after narrowly escaping Saturday’s attack.
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“We are burying them in mass graves and we are continuing to collect bodies. Federal army units have now arrived, but we fear the attacks will continue if they leave.”
Another witness, who gave only his first name, Shambel, fearing for his safety, said the local Amhara community was desperate to be relocated elsewhere “before another round of killings occurs”.
He said the ethnic Amhara who settled in the region around 30 years ago under resettlement programs are now being “killed like chickens”.
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Both witnesses blamed the Oromo Liberation Army for the attacks. In a statement, the Oromia regional government also blamed the OLA, saying the rebels attacked “after being unable to resist operations launched by (federal) security forces”.
An OLA spokesman, Odaa Tarbii, denied the allegations.
“The attack you are referring to was committed by the army and the local regime militia as they retreated from their camp in Gimbi following our recent offensive,” he said in a message to the PA.
“They fled to an area called Tole, where they attacked local people and destroyed their property in retaliation for their supposed support for the OLA. Our fighters hadn’t even reached that area when the attacks took place. “
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Ethiopia is experiencing widespread ethnic tensions in several regions, mostly due to historical grievances and political tensions.
The Amhara people, the second largest ethnic group among Ethiopia’s more than 110 million people, have been frequently targeted in areas like Oromia.
The government-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on Sunday called on the federal government to find a “durable solution” to the killing of civilians and protect them from such attacks.
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