The incident appears to be an ethnically targeted attack, according to a statement from the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC). This is the second attack against civilians in the Oromia region in less than a month.
The EHRC says the populations of the villages of Mender 20 and Mender 21 in Hawa Gelan in the Kellem Wollega area of Oromia are “mainly of Amhara ethnic origin” and that the inhabitants are hiding elsewhere despite the arrival of security forces In the region.
“The Shene Group [another name for the OLA]fleeing security forces, threatens civilians in the western part of [Wollega]. In the Oromia region, civilians from [Kellem Wollega] were massacred. We mourn the loss of our citizens,” Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed tweeted on Monday.
“We will pursue this terrorist group to the end and eliminate it with our people,” he added.
The OLA denied the charges and blamed government militias for the apparent massacre.
“Two divisions of the ENDF (Ethiopian National Defense Force) together with allied forces occupy the towns of [Kellem Wollega], including Machaara where civilians were killed en masse by regime militias while security forces did nothing. The regime thinks it can just point fingers and evade responsibility,” OLA spokesperson Odaa Tarbii tweeted on Monday in response to Abiy’s statement.
The OLA, which aligned itself with the Tigrayan forces against the federal government last year, was designated by the Ethiopian government as a terrorist organization in 2021. The group has often been accused of attacking civilians and targeting civilians. Ethnic Amharas.
The attacks come amid rising ethnic tensions across the country in recent years.
“The continuing insecurity in the area and what appears to be the ethnically targeted killing of residents must be stopped immediately,” said EHRC Chief Commissioner Dr. Daniel Bekele, who reiterated the call of the EHRC for urgent surge of government security forces. to prevent further civilian deaths in the region.
An earlier version of this story referred to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed as President of Ethiopia. This has been corrected.