Gunmen kill over 100 people in Ethiopia
Published: 12:31 PM, 24 December 2020
More than 100 people have been killed in a dawn attack by gunmen in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia.
In a statement, the state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said that the attack took place on Wednesday in the village of Bekoji in Bulen county in the Metekel zone, an area where multiple ethnic groups are living.
Farmer Belay Wajera in the western town of Bulen told Reuters he counted 82 dead bodies in a field near his home after Wednesday’s raid.
He and his family awoke to the sound of gunshots and ran out of their home as men shouted “catch them”, he said.
His wife and five of his children were shot dead, he was shot in the buttocks while four other children escaped and are now missing, Wajera told Reuters by phone late on Wednesday.
Another resident of the town, Hassen Yimama, told Reuters he counted 20 bodies in a different location. He grabbed his own weapon but attackers shot him in the stomach.
A local medic said he and colleagues treated 38 injured people, most suffering from gunshot wounds.
Patients told him of relatives who were killed with knives and told him attackers set houses on fire and shot at people trying to escape, he said.
Ethiopia, the second-most populous nation of Africa, has been grappling with regular outbreaks of deadly violence since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed was appointed in 2018 and accelerated democratic reforms that loosened the state’s iron grip on regional rivalries.
Elections due next year have further inflamed simmering tensions over land, power and resources.
In a separate part of the country, Ethiopia’s military has been fighting rebels in the northern Tigray region for more than six weeks in a conflict that has displaced close to 950,000 people.
The deployment of federal troops there has raised fears of a security vacuum in other restive regions.
Ethiopia is also experiencing unrest in the Oromia region and faces long-running security threats from Somali fighters along its porous eastern border.
Gashu Dugaz, a senior regional security official, told the Reuters news agency authorities were aware of the Benishangul-Gumuz attack and were verifying the identities of the attackers and the victims, but did not give further information.
The region is home to several ethnic groups including the Gumuz people. But farmers and businessmen from the neighbouring Amhara region have begun moving into the area in recent years, prompting some Gumuz to complain that fertile land has been taken.
Some Amhara leaders are now saying some of the lands in the region - especially in the Metekel zone - rightfully belongs to them, claims that have angered Gumuz people.