Witnesses in Ethiopia said Sunday more than 200 ethnic Amhara were killed in the attack in the country’s Oromia region, blaming the rebel group, which denies it.
This is one of the deadliest such attacks in recent memory as ethnic tensions persist 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 lives,” Abdul-Seyid Tahir, a resident of Gimbi County, told The Associated Press, narrowly avoiding an attack on Saturday.
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“We bury them in mass graves, and we are still collecting bodies. Federal army units have now arrived, but we fear that the attacks may continue if they leave.” Another witness, 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 wave of massacres occurs.” 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 Oromo Liberation Army for the attacks. In a statement, Oromia’s regional government also blamed the OLA, saying the insurgents attacked “after failing to counter operations launched by (federal) security forces.” OLA spokesman Odaa Tarbiy denied the allegations.
“The attack you are talking about was carried out by regime forces and local militia as they retreated from their camp in Gimbi after our recent offensive,” he told the AP.
“They fled to an area called Tole, where they attacked the local population and destroyed their property in retaliation for their alleged support for the APW. Our fighters did not even have time to get to this area when the shelling took place.” Ethiopia is experiencing widespread ethnic tensions in several regions, mainly due to historical grievances and political tensions. The Amhara people, the second largest ethnic group among Ethiopia’s over 110 million people, have been frequently 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.