At least 320 people died this Monday in an attack by suspected rebels of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) in the west of the country, in the Oromia region, confirmed to the agency EFE a resident of the area who witnessed the attack.
The witness, who wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons, assured late yesterday that OLA rebels shot at residents of the Amhara ethnic group in the Kelem Welega area (province) between 05:00 (02:00 GMT) and 09:00 local time (06:00 GMT).
According to the aforementioned source, several minors and mothers were killed during the attack, while at least 320 bodies had been identified as of last night.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed blamed the OLA on Monday for the massacre, which the government refers to as OLF-Shene – the group split from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) after that party abandoned the armed struggle – and lamented the death of civilians.
“We are deeply saddened by the death of our citizens and we will continue to persecute this terrorist group to eradicate it,” said the president through the social network Twitter.
Witnesses said that the regional forces were unable to access the attacked area until the arrival of additional troops due to the heavy deployment of rebel forces.
Last June 18, more than 380 people died -according to the latest government figures- in another attack attributed to the OLA in various towns in Oromia, all of them in Gimbi woreda (district), also in the western part of the region.
The group, however, denied involvement in the events.
Ethiopia suffers recurrent outbreaks of ethnic violence in the regions of Benishangul-Gumuz (west), Amhara (west) and Oromia (center and west), triggered above all by conflicts over land and power.
The Oromo Liberation Army split from the OLF after that party – which seeks self-determination for its historically marginalized people – laid down its arms to return to the country and play politics at the invitation of Abiy in 2018, when he came to power.
Since then, the rebel group, listed in 2020 as a terrorist group by the Ethiopian Executive, uses Oromia as a base for its operations.
Last January, in a gesture for national reconciliation, the Ethiopian government granted amnesty to several political prisoners, including Jawar Mohammed and Bekele Gerba, both leaders of the regional opposition party Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), which has accused Addis Ababa of repression together with the OLF.
The Ethiopian federal army has a special operation underway to end the OLA and has killed more than 1,000 rebels during “the last two months,” the prime minister said in mid-June during an intervention in Parliament.
On June 14, there were dozens of deaths in the surroundings of the city of Gambella (east), capital of the homonymous region, during another attack attributed to the Oromo rebels, who wanted to take control of the city, according to regional authorities.
In addition to community violence, the country is going through a convulsive moment due to the war that has been waged since November 2020 by the rebels of the northern region of Tigré and the federal government.
(with information from EFE)
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