Ethiopia’s leader on Monday reportedly reported on a massacre by rebels in a troubled region where a rebel group opposing his government is accused of targeting civilians amid fighting with government troops.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office did not provide fatality figures, but the Amhara Association of America told The Associated Press, citing on-ground sources, that it believed 150 to 160 people may have died in the attacks.
The Associated Press was not able to independently verify casualties figures by the association, which said ethnic Amhara people were targeted and that the killings began earlier in the day.
“Members of the Shane group fleeing attacks by (government) security forces are threatening civilians in West Welega,” Abiy said in a tweet on Monday. He said the operation was on to chase the rebels. “Citizens of the Kelen Welega area of the Oromia region have been hit by the massacre.”
The prime minister’s announcement came three weeks after hundreds of Amhara community civilians were killed in the same area in attacks on Ola, which the government refers to as Shen. The rebel group denied that charge, instead accusing government forces and a local militia of carrying out the attacks.
The phone connectivity from the remote area has been suspended since afternoon.
The killings will pressure Abiy’s government to do more to protect civilians as a wave of ethnic unrest continues to engulf Africa’s second most populous country. Political, historical and ethnic tensions have led to an increase in attacks targeting minorities living across the country in recent years.
Ethnic Amhara, the second largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, but a minority in other regions, have been repeatedly targeted.
Several dozen were killed in attacks in the Benishangul Gumuz and Oromia regions alone in the past three years. Last month, witnesses told the Associated Press that more than 400 civilians were killed in a June 18 attack against Amhara in the Toll area of the Oromia region.