- More than 200 people – the majority of them Amhara – were killed in the attack, witnesses said.
- The massacre is blamed on an armed rebel group called the Oromo Liberation Army.
- “I’m afraid this is the deadliest attack on civilians we’ve seen in our lives,” said one survivor.
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — Witnesses in Ethiopia on Sunday said more than 200 people, mostly ethnic Amhara, were killed in an attack in the Oromia region, blaming a rebel group, which denies it.
It is one of the deadliest attacks in recent history 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 seen in our lives,” Abdul-Seid Tahir, a resident of Gimbi province, told The Associated Press after narrowly addressing the police on Saturday. attack had escaped. “We are burying them in mass graves and we are still collecting bodies. Federal army units have now arrived, but we fear the attacks could continue if they leave.”
Another witness, who only gave his first name, Shambel fearing for his safety, said the local Amhara community is now desperate for a new location “before another round of massacres happens”. He said ethnic Amharas who settled in the area about 30 years ago in resettlement programs are now “being killed like chickens.”
Both witnesses blamed the Oromo Liberation Army for the attacks. In a statement, Oromia’s regional government also blamed the OLA, saying the rebels attacked “after they were unable to resist the operations of the (federal) security forces”.
An OLA spokesperson, Odaa Tarbii, denied the allegations.
“The attack you refer to was perpetrated by the regime’s military and local militia as they withdrew from their camp in Gimbi following our recent offensive,” he said in a message to the AP. “They escaped to an area called Tole, where they attacked the locals and destroyed their property in retaliation for their alleged support for the OLA. Our fighters hadn’t even reached that area when the attacks took place.”
Ethiopia is experiencing widespread ethnic tensions in several regions, most because of historical grievances and political tensions. The Amhara people, the second largest ethnic group among Ethiopia’s more than 110 million residents, have often been targeted in regions such as 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.