Witnesses in Ethiopia said on Sunday that more than 200 people, mostly ethnic Amhars, had been killed in an attack in the country’s Oromia region, and blamed a rebel group for denying it.
It was one of the deadliest such attacks in recent times as ethnic tensions continue in Africa’s second most populous country.
“I counted 230 bodies. “I am afraid that this is the deadliest attack on civilians we have ever seen,” Abdul-Seid Tahir, a resident of Gimbi district, told the Associated Press after he barely escaped the attack on Saturday. “We are burying them in mass graves, and we are still collecting bodies. Federal Army units have arrived, but we fear that the attacks could continue if they leave.
Another witness, who gave only his name, Shambel, fearing for his own safety, said the local Amharic community was now desperate to be relocated “before another round of massacres takes place”. He said that the ethnic Amhars who settled in the area about 30 years ago were now “killed like chickens” in resettlement programs.
Both witnesses blamed the Oroma Liberation Army for the attacks. In a statement, the Oromiya regional government also blamed OLA, saying the rebels attacked “after they were unable to resist the operations he launched [federal] security forces. ”
OLA spokesman Odaa Tarbii denied the allegations.
“The attack you are talking about was carried out by the regime army and local militia as they were withdrawing from their camp in Gimbi after our recent offensive,” he told the Associated Press. “They fled to an area called Tole, where they attacked the local population and destroyed their property in retaliation for their alleged support of the OLA. Our fighters did not even reach that area when the attacks took place.
Ethiopia is experiencing widespread ethnic tensions in several regions, mostly due to historical grievances and political tensions. The Amharic people, the second largest ethnic group among Ethiopia’s more than 110 million people, have often been targeted in regions such as Oromia.
A government-appointed Ethiopian human rights commission on Sunday called on the federal government to find a “permanent solution” to killing civilians and protect them from such attacks.