Armed men have killed over one hundred people in the western Ethiopian region of Benishangul-Gumuz.
The latest attack has no direct link to the ongoing separatist conflict in Tigray. Analysts however, suggest that the increase of security forces in the north around Tigray has created a security vacuum in other parts of the country.
At least 100 people died in the attack that took place on Wednesday morning. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has published images taken by survivors from the scene of the massacre, portraying them as “worrying evidence”.
The armed group shot at residents, set fire to homes as they lay asleep, killing no less than 100 people.
Belay Wajera, a farmer in the western town of Bulen, told the Reuters news agency that he counted 82 bodies in a field near his home after the Wednesday morning attack.
He and his family awoke to the sound of gunshots, he said. The killers shot dead Wajera’s wife and five of his children; he was shot in the back. Four other children who escaped are now missing.
Another resident of the town, Hassen Yimama, said armed men stormed the area at dawn. He had counted 20 bodies in an area aside from those described by Belay Wajera. The killers shot Yimama in the stomach.
A local doctor explaijed he and colleagues had treated 38 injured people, most of them having gunshot wounds. Patients had told him of relatives killed with knives, and of gunmen who set houses on fire and shot at people trying to escape, he elaborated.
Other survivors told officials of the EHRC that the attackers had destroyed crops. Meanwhile, some of the survivors claim to have recognised the attackers.
The attack came just one day after the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed, and the army chief of staff, Birhanu Jula, visited the region to urge calm after a number of clashes between rival ethnic groups in recent months. The most recent incident in the area was on 14 November, when 34 passengers in a bus lost their lives.
Government briefly augmented security in the area earlier this week to prepare for the visit by the government and army leaders. However, survivors of Wednesday’s attack say no police or soldiers were on duty when the killing was on. Federal forces have been strengthened in the north of Ethiopia since fighting broke out in Tigray in November.
Prime Minister Ahmed blames instability in western Ethiopia on Sudan, asking Khartoum to intensify border security against the transit of fighters who, Abiy claims, are trained and armed on Sudanese territory.
The prime minister’s office has not released an official statement on the latest attack.