The ages of victims of attacks in the Metekel area in the Benishangul-Gumuz region ranged from two to 45 years old, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.
More than 80 civilians, including children as young as two, were killed in the latest attack to hit western Ethiopia, according to the country’s national human rights commission.
Aaron Maasho, spokesperson and senior advisor for the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), told Al Jazeera that the massacre took place between 5 a.m. and 7 a.m. on Tuesday in the Benishangul-Gumuz area. , which borders Sudan and South Sudan.
“We have received information that more than 80 people have died, aged between 2 and 45,” he said from the capital, Addis Ababa.
There was no claim of responsibility and no immediate information on the identity of the attackers. “We can confirm that the perpetrators of the attack have not yet been apprehended by the authorities,” Maasho said.
The attack took place in an area called Daletti, in the Metekel area of Benishangul-Gumuz, which has been plagued by recurrent violence in recent months that has left hundreds dead.
Some 207 people were killed in an attack on December 23 alone.
Maasho said “thousands of people” have been displaced due to the continued violence in Metekel.
“We call on the federal and regional authorities to strengthen coordination and measures, including at the district level, to prevent similar attacks against civilians,” added the spokesperson for the EHRC, an independent body affiliated with the government. .
‘They burned my house’
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has struggled to impose order on Metekel or explain what is behind the violence, despite his visit to the region in December and the authorization of a command post to there. take charge of security.
Opposition politicians described the violence in Metekel as ethnically motivated, alleging a targeted campaign by ethnic Gumuz armed groups against members of other ethnic groups in the region, including the Amhara, Ethiopia’s second largest group. .
A survivor of the latest attack, Ahmed Yimam, told AFP news agency on Wednesday that he had counted 82 bodies and said 22 people were injured.
“The attack was carried out mainly using knives, although arrows and guns were also used,” he said.
Worke Ahmed, 60, told Reuters news agency by phone that the men involved in Tuesday’s attack were armed and that he had seen more than 100 of them. Some were wearing uniforms he could not identify, he said.
“They burned down my house and my brother’s house, with 200 cattle and 11 goats inside,” he said.
Africa’s second most populous country has grappled with steady outbreaks of deadly violence since Abiy was appointed in 2018 and has accelerated democratic reforms that have loosened the state’s iron grip on regional rivalries.
The elections scheduled for this year have further exacerbated tensions over land, power and resources.
In a separate part of the country, the Ethiopian army has been fighting rebels in the northern Tigray region for more than two months, in a conflict that has displaced around one million people.
The deployment of federal troops there raised fears of a security vacuum in other turbulent areas.
Ethiopia is also experiencing unrest in the Oromia region and faces long-standing security threats from Somali fighters along its porous eastern border.