Regional authorities accuse Oromo Liberation Army of carrying out the attack, with reports putting the death toll at ‘several dozen’.

The exact death toll remains unknown, with local media reports speaking about ‘several dozen deaths’ [File: Giulia Paravicini/Reuters]
The exact death toll remains unknown, with local media reports speaking about ‘several dozen deaths’ [File: Giulia Paravicini/Reuters]

Authorities in Ethiopia’s Oromia region have said an armed group carried out a “horrendous” attack on civilians, with one survivor saying dozens of people were killed.

A statement from the Oromia regional government on Monday said the attack by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) took place on Sunday in an area of western Ethiopia known as Wollega.

“Peaceful civilians were killed … in a horrendous way,” the statement said, without providing figures.

The exact death toll remains unknown, with local media reports speaking about “several dozen deaths”.

The National Movement of Amhara (NAMA), an opposition party, said the perpetrators of Sunday’s attack appeared to have targeted members of the Amhara ethnic group, Ethiopia’s second-largest.

‘More than 50 corpses’
A survivor who spoke by phone to AFP news agency said the violence erupted after soldiers stationed in the area abruptly and inexplicably left, allowing OLA fighters to round up civilians.

“After collecting us, they opened fire on us, and then afterwards looted cattle and burned down houses,” said the survivor, who spoke on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.

“I have counted more than 50 corpses, and I know there were others hit by bullets,” the survivor said.

The OLA, believed to number in the low thousands, broke off from the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), an opposition party that spent years in exile but was allowed to return to Ethiopia after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018.

Since December 2018, the Ethiopian army has been deployed in western and southern Oromia to combat the OLA’s armed campaign.

Abiy on Monday condemned the “heartbreaking” attack, saying he had deployed security forces to the area.

“Ethiopia’s enemies are vowing either to rule the country or ruin it, and they are doing everything they can to achieve this. One of their tactics is to arm civilians and carry out barbaric attacks based on identity,” Abiy said in a statement.

The incident is likely to further ramp up pressure on Abiy, winner of last year’s Nobel Peace Prize, to improve security in a country struggling with rising ethnic violence.

SOURCE : NEWS AGENCIES

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