NAIROBI, Kenya – More than 200 people were killed in Ethiopia, witnesses said on Sunday, in an attack in the Oromia region which they said targeted mainly people of the Amhara ethnic group.
“I counted 230 bodies,” Gimbi County resident Abdul-Seid Tahir told The UK Time News after narrowly escaping Saturday’s attack. “I fear this is the deadliest attack on civilians we have seen in our lifetime. We bury them in mass graves and continue to collect bodies. »
He blamed Oromo Liberation Army rebels for the attack, although the group denied responsibility. Mr Tahir said federal army units had arrived but feared more violence if they left.
Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous country, is experiencing widespread ethnic tensions in several regions, mostly over historical and political grievances. A war in the Tigray region left thousands dead and displaced around two million people.
Another witness to Saturday’s clashes, who gave only his first name, Shambel, fearing for his safety, said the local Amhara community was desperate to relocate “before another round of massacres”. He said ethnic Amhara who settled in the area around 30 years ago under resettlement programs were now “killed like chickens”.
Both witnesses blamed the Oromo Liberation Army for the attack, as did the Oromia Regional Government. In a statement, he said the rebels attacked “after being unable to resist the operations launched by security forces.”
A rebel spokesman, Odaa Tarbii, countered the accusations by saying the army and local militia were behind the assault. He told The UK Time News they attacked as they retreated from their camp at Gimbi after a rebel offensive.
“They fled to an area called Tole,” he said, “where they attacked the local population and destroyed their property in retaliation for their perceived support for the OLA. Our fighters hadn’t even reached this area when the attacks took place”.
The Ethiopian government considers the Oromo Liberation Army a terrorist group.
The Amhara people, Ethiopia’s second largest ethnic group, numbering more than 110 million, 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.