Ethiopia’s leader reported a massacre Monday allegedly by rebels in a restive region where a rebel group opposed to his government is accused of targeting civilians amid fighting with government troops.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s office didn’t provide fatality figures, but the Amhara Association of America told The Associated Press, quoting sources on the ground, that it believes 150 to 160 people may have been killed in the attacks.
The AP wasn’t able to independently verify casualty figures by the association, which said ethnic Amhara people were targeted and that the killings started early in the day.
“Shene group members fleeing from attacks by (government) security forces are inflicting danger on citizens in West Wellega,” Abiy said in a tweet Monday, adding that operations are under way to chase the rebels. “Citizens in the Oromia region’s Qellen Wellega area have come under a massacre.”
The prime minister’s announcement came three weeks after hundreds of civilians belonging to the Amhara community were killed in the same region in attacks blamed on the OLA, which the government refers to as Shene. The rebel group denied that accusation, instead accusing government forces and a local militia of carrying out the attacks.
Phone communication with the remote area has been cut since midday.
The killings will pile pressure on Abiy’s government to do more to protect civilians as a wave of ethnic unrest persists in Africa’s second-most-populous country. Attacks targeting minorities living across the country have increased in recent years because of political, historical and ethnic tensions.
Ethnic Amhara, the second-largest ethnic group in Ethiopia but a minority in other regions, have been targeted repeatedly.
Several dozen were killed in attacks in the Benishangul Gumuz and Oromia regions over the past three years alone. Last month, witnesses told the AP that more than 400 civilians were killed in a June 18 attack against ethnic Amhara in the Oromia region’s Tole area.