Witnesses say victims of massacre in country’s western Oromia region were ethnic Amharas – a minority in the area.
The suspected death toll in an attack by gunmen in Ethiopia’s western Oromia region has risen, with new witness testimony suggesting that between 260 and 320 civilians were killed on Saturday.
Reports of the massacre surfaced on Sunday, as survivors described one of the deadliest such incidents in several years in Ethiopia.
The country’s prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, has condemned what he described as “horrific acts” in Oromia but has not given any details of the violence.
“Attacks on innocent civilians and destruction of livelihoods by illegal and irregular forces is unacceptable,” Abiy said on Twitter on Monday, pledging “zero tolerance for horrific acts … by elements whose main objective is to terrorize communities.”
Oromia, home to Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, the Oromo, as well as people from other communities, has experienced unrest for many years, rooted in grievances about political marginalization and neglect by the central government. Abiy is an Oromo, the first to be in charge of Ethiopia’s government, but some Oromo believe he has betrayed the community’s interests.
Two residents who described the attack on Saturday said the victims were ethnic Amharas, a minority in the region.
There was no indication that the attack was directly linked to a conflict in the northern region of Tigray, which began in November 2020 and has killed thousands and displaced millions.
The attack occurred in the Gimbi district of the western Wollega zone in the western part of Oromia. One resident gave a figure of 260 dead, the other said 320. The residents declined to give their names because of fears for their safety.
“So far we have buried 260 people, and I took part in collecting the bodies and burying the bodies. We just buried them in a farm. We buried 50 to 60 bodies in single graves,” said one resident.
He said he had survived by hiding in a ditch but had lost four siblings and three cousins in the attack.
The other resident said the attackers were ethnic Oromos from a group called the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA).
“It was a massacre of Amharas,” he said, adding that he had survived by hiding in a forest and that he had heard the attackers speaking in the Oromo language.
SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES