Scores Feared Dead in Ethiopia Attack


NAIROBI, Kenya. More than 200 people were killed in Ethiopia, witnesses said Sunday, in an attack in the Oromiya region that they said was directed mainly against ethnic Amhara.

“I counted 230 bodies,” Abdul-Seyid Tahir, a Gimbi County resident, told The Associated Press, narrowly avoiding an attack on Saturday. “I’m afraid this is the deadliest attack on civilians that we have seen in our lives. We bury them in mass graves and still collect the bodies.”

He blamed the attack on rebels from the Oromo Liberation Army, although the group denied involvement. Mr. Tahir said federal army units had already arrived, but he feared that if they left, the violence would escalate.

Ethiopia, the second most populous country in Africa, is experiencing widespread ethnic tensions in several regions, mainly due to historical and political grievances. The war in the Tigray region claimed thousands of lives and left about two million displaced.

Another eyewitness to Saturday’s riots, who gave only his first name, Shambel, out of fear for his safety, said the local Amhara community is now desperate to relocate “before another round of massacres.” He said the ethnic Amhara, who settled in the area some 30 years ago as part of resettlement programs, are now “killed like chickens.”

Both witnesses blamed the attack on the Oromo Liberation Army, as did the Oromia regional government. The statement said the insurgents attacked “after failing to counter operations launched by security forces.”

Rebel spokesman Odaa Tarbiya denied the allegations, saying the military and local police were behind the attack. He told the Associated Press that they attacked as they retreated from their camp in Gimbi after the rebel advance.

“They fled to an area called Tole,” he said, “where they attacked the local population and destroyed their property in retaliation for their alleged support for the OLA. Our fighters had not even reached the area when the attacks took place.”

The Ethiopian government considers the Oromo Liberation Army a terrorist group.

The Amhara people, the second largest ethnic group in Ethiopia with over 110 million people, were often attacked in regions such as Oromia.

The government-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on Sunday urged the federal government to find a “long-term solution” to the killing of civilians and protect them from such attacks.


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