NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Witnesses in Ethiopia said Sunday that more than 200 people, mostly ethnic Amhara, were killed in an attack in the country’s Oromia region, blaming the insurgent group denied this.
It was one of the deadliest such attacks in recent memory as ethnic tensions continue in Africa’s second most populous country.
“I’ve counted 230 bodies. I’m afraid this is the deadliest attack on civilians we’ve ever seen in our lives,” Kimby County resident Abdul-Seid Tahir told The Associated Press Saturday after narrowly escaping the attack society. “We buried them in mass graves and we are still collecting bodies. Federal troops have now arrived, but we are concerned that if they leave, the attack may continue.”
Another witness, Shambel, who gave his name only because he feared for his safety, said the local Amhara community was now desperately seeking to relocate elsewhere “before another round of mass killings.” He said the Amhara people who settled in the area about 30 years ago were now being “killed like chickens”.
Both witnesses blamed the Oromo Liberation Army for the attack. In a statement, the Oromia regional government also blamed the OLA, saying the rebels “launched the attack after being unable to resist operations launched by the (federal) security forces.”
OLA spokeswoman Oda Tarbi denied the allegations.
“The attack you are referring to was carried out by the regime’s army and local militias as they retreated from their camp in Kimbi after our most recent offensive,” he said in a message to The Associated Press. “They fled to an area called Tole area, where they attacked local residents and destroyed their property in retaliation for their support of the OLA. Our fighters had not even reached that area when the attack occurred.”
Ethiopia is experiencing widespread ethnic tensions in several regions, much of it due to historical grievances and political tensions. The Amhara are the second largest ethnic group in Ethiopia of more than 110 million people and are regularly targeted in areas such as Oromia.
The government-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on Sunday called on the federal government to find a “lasting solution” to the killing of civilians and to protect them from such attacks.