Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said on Thursday he had deployed forces to the western Benishangul-Gumuz region, a day after gunmen killed more than 100 people in the area, which has seen regular ethnic violence.
On Wednesday, the state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said gunmen had killed over 100 people in a dawn attack in the village of Bekoji in Bulen county in the Metekel zone, an area where numerous ethnic groups live.
“The massacre of civilians in Benishangul-Gumuz region is very tragic,” Abiy said on Twitter. “The government, to solve the root causes of the problem, has deployed a necessary force.”
Ethiopian troops killed 42 armed men who took part in the massacre, state-affiliated Fana TV reported on Thursday.
Soldiers seized bows and arrows and other weapons from the men who were involved in the dawn attack, Fana said, citing regional officials.
Africa’s second-most populous nation has been wrestling with outbreaks of deadly violence since Abiy took office in 2018 and accelerated democratic and economic reforms that have loosened the state’s iron grip on regional rivalries.
Residents on Wednesday described to Reuters seeing dozens of dead bodies and being chased by unknown gunmen shooting at locals.
Abiy and senior officials had visited the region on Tuesday to call for calm after multiple deadly attacks in recent months, such as a November 14 assault in which gunmen targeted a bus and killed 34 people.
The desire by enemies to divide Ethiopia along ethnic & religious lines still exists. This desire will remain unfulfilled. In discussions with residents of Metekel, the expressed will of our people for unity, peace, development and prosperity far outweighs any divisive agenda. pic.twitter.com/DYlnCNH0tc
— Abiy Ahmed Ali 🇪🇹 (@AbiyAhmedAli) December 22, 2020
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 led to fears of a security vacuum in other restive regions.
(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)