More than 80 civilians were killed in the latest attack in an area of western Ethiopia that has repeated violent violence in recent months, the National Human Rights Commission said on Wednesday.
“We have received information that more than 80 civilians were killed on January 12 in an area called Daletti” in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia, Aaron Maasho, an adviser and spokesman for the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), told AFP.
The village of Daletti is located in the Metekel area, where hundreds of civilians have been killed by attackers using weapons, knives and other weapons in attacks dating back to at least September.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has struggled to bring order to Metekel or explain what drives the violence, despite visiting the area in December and authorizing a commander to take responsibility for security there.
There is no known link between violence and military operations in Ethiopia’s northernmost Tigray region, where Abiy sent troops in November to detain and disarm leaders of the aberrant regional ruling party.
Tuesday’s attack in Metekel occurred between 5 and 7 in the morning, where the victims were between two and 45 years old, Aaron said.
The EHRC, a government-affiliated but independent body, “is still pursuing further details about the perpetrators” and how the victims were killed, he said.
Opposition politicians have described the violence in Metekel as ethnically motivated and claim a targeted campaign by ethnic Gumuz militias against members of other ethnic groups in the area, including Amhara, Ethiopia’s second largest group.
A survivor of Tuesday’s attack, Ahmed Yimam, told AFP on Wednesday that he had counted 82 bodies and said that 22 people were injured.
“The attack was mostly carried out with knives, although arrows and firearms were also used,” he said.
“I fear more attacks because the perpetrators will not be punished, and there is no functioning government at local and regional level,” he said.
On Monday, the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported that “relative peace has been restored in Metekel” due to the government’s response to the violence, but EHRC’s Aaron said on Wednesday that more needed to be done.
“These civilians have barely had a break from such grim attacks for several months. We once again call on federal and regional authorities to improve their coordination when responding to such incidents to prevent loss of life in Benishangul-Gumuz,” he said.
“We remind the authorities that the protection of civilians is the primary duty of the government.”