At least 32 civilians killed in armed attack in western Ethiopia: rights group

Ethiopian Prime Minister Dr. Abiy Ahmed (Getty Images)
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed delivers a speech during a meeting with French President on March 12, 2019 in Addis Ababa. (Photo by Ludovic MARIN / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read LUDOVIC MARIN/AFP/Getty Images)

An armed attack in Ethiopia’s Oromia regional state has left at least 32 people dead, Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said on Monday.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), a federal rights group established by the Ethiopian parliament, in a statement sent to Xinhua on late Monday said that “the assailants targeted ethnic Amharas (second largest ethnic group in Ethiopia) residing in the three kebeles (vicinities). They were dragged from their homes and taken to a school, where they were killed.”

“Official figures state a death toll of 32 civilians, but preliminary evidence obtained by EHRC indicate the number is very likely to exceed that tally,” the EHRC said.

President of Ethiopia’s Oromia regional state, Shimeles Abdisa, also confirmed the killing of civilians, though he didn’t mention the number of casualties.

According to the EHRC, the attacks were committed on Sunday by a group of armed and unarmed assailants that numbered up to 60 in Wollega Zone’s Gawa-Kanka, Gilla-Gogola, and Seka-Jerbi vicinities, and followed the withdrawal of federal soldiers from the areas around noon the same day.

The Commission, which “unequivocally condemns the massacre of civilians,” stressed that “these gruesome killings of civilians are unconscionable and flout basic principles of humanity.”

The statement also quoted Daniel Bekele, Chief Commissioner of EHRC, saying “no amount of grievance can justify such brutality, and perpetrators should be held to account.”

Federal authorities blamed the Oromo Liberation Army of carrying out the attacks, and that women and children were among the victims.

The EHRC also urged federal and regional authorities to “promptly launch an independent investigation into the killings and shed light on the reasons behind the military’s withdrawal from an area long known to be vulnerable to attacks, and take appropriate measures to ensure the security of civilians.”

It also called on authorities to ensure that victims and their families obtain full redress.

Sunday’s incident is the latest in a tragic spate of massacres in Ethiopia over a period of four weeks. At least a dozen civilians were killed in Gura Ferda district in Southern Ethiopia in October, while several people lost their lives in Afar region of Ethiopia in the same month.

The Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, also on Monday condemned the deadly “identity-based” killing.

“I am deeply saddened by the ongoing identity-based attacks on Ethiopians,” Ahmed said in a statement issued on Monday.

Noting that the perpetrators, whom he said are “enemies of Ethiopia” are using every means at their disposal, Ahmed also stressed that they are disrupting the country with the notion “whether we rule, or there is no country.”

“One of their goals is to break the morale of our people,” Ahmed said.

According to Ahmed, these forces are mobilizing, training and arming people, intending to shock, frighten, and emotionally upset the general public.

Noting that the Ethiopian government has deployed security forces to the area, Ahmed stressed that the government “will continue to work hard to ensure the safety of its people.”

Ahmed, however, did not mention the number of victims of the latest attack.

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