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Ethiopia government, rebel group trade blame over killings in Oromiya

Members of Amhara Special Forces are seen along a street in Humera Town, Ethiopia, on July 1, 2021. (File photo by Reuters)

Ethiopia's government and a rebel group have accused each other of responsibility for killings in western Oromiya region, in which hundreds have been killed in escalating violence between rival ethnic groups over the past few months.

Both the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Wednesday held the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) responsible for the killings.

Premier Abiy has described the violence as a "massacre" in the troubled region, which accounts for more than a third of Ethiopia's population of around 110 million.

The EHRC called for government forces in Oromiya to be reinforced in light of the latest assaults and attacks.

According to the EHRC, the most recent killing took place on Monday in two villages in Kellem Wollega zone, around 400 km west of the capital, Addis Ababa. The villages caught up in the violence were mainly populated by ethnic Amharas.

OLA spokesman Odaa Tarbii, however, has denied responsibility for the latest killing and said that government-allied militias were responsible for the slaughter. He further accused federal troops recently deployed in the area of doing nothing to stop it.

Oromiya has experienced ethnic violence for many years, often rooted in grievances about political marginalization.

The government announced a military crackdown in the region after about 340 people were killed there last month.

Violence has escalated since the OLA formed an alliance last year with the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been fighting government forces in the north of the country since November 2020. The ensuing civil war has seen both sides carry out atrocities, according to human rights groups.

Ethiopia has seen an unprecedented rise in ethnic violence in the past three years, with thousands killed and millions uprooted from their houses. The country has also been ravaged by a civil war in the northern Tigray region since 2020.


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