Nairobi, Kenya (AFP) – The Ethiopian leader reported a massacre on Monday by rebels in a restive region as a rebel group opposed to his government was accused of targeting civilians amid fighting with government forces.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office did not provide death figures, but the Amhara Association of America told the Associated Press, citing sources on the ground, that it believed 150 to 160 people may have been killed in the attacks.
The AP was unable to independently verify casualty figures from the association, which said members of the Amhara ethnic group had been targeted and that the killings began early in the day.
“Members of the Chene group fleeing the attacks of the (government) security forces pose a danger to the citizens of West Waleja,” Abe said in a tweet on Monday, adding that operations were underway to hunt down the rebels. “Citizens of Kilin Velega District, Oromia Region, massacred”.
The prime minister’s announcement came three weeks after hundreds of civilians belonging to the Amhara community were killed in the same area in attacks blamed on the Sudan Liberation Army, which the government describes as Shin. The rebel group denied the accusation, instead accusing government forces and a local militia of carrying out the attacks.
Telephone communication in the remote area has been cut off since midday.
The killings will increase pressure on Abiy’s government to do more to protect civilians as the wave of ethnic unrest continues in Africa’s second most populous country. Attacks targeting minorities living across the country have increased in recent years due to political, historical, and ethnic tensions.
The ethnic Amhara, the second largest ethnic group in Ethiopia but a minority in other regions, have been repeatedly targeted.
Dozens have been killed in attacks in the Benishangul Gumuz and Oromia regions in the past three years alone. Last month, witnesses told the Associated Press that more than 400 civilians were killed in the June 18 attack on the Ethnic Amhara in the Toli district of Oromia region.