Rebel attacks on villages kill 37 in Ethiopia

Updated June 27, 2019

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Three officials, including the region’s president, were killed in that attack. — AFP
Three officials, including the region’s president, were killed in that attack. — AFP

ADDIS ABABA: Thirty-seven people were killed in an attack on Sunday in Ethiopia’s Benishangul-Gumuz region, the governor said on Wednesday.

Benishangul-Gumuz borders the Amhara region, where authorities foiled a deadly attempt to oust the regional government on Saturday.

Three officials, including the region’s president, were killed in that attack.

Ashadli Hassen, governor of Benishangul-Gumuz, said that the attack on villages in Metakal zone was carried out by armed men believed to be followers of the army general who attempted a coup in Amhara, Ashadli Hassen, governor of Benishangul-Gumuz, said.

The attackers returned to Amhara after the assault in which 18 others were wounded, he said.An internet shutdown remains in force following Saturday’s violence, which included the assassination of the national army chief by his bodyguard in the capital, Addis Ababa.

The militia attacked the police headquarters, ruling party headquarters and president’s office — where they executed three top officials — in Amhara’s regional capital of Bahir Dar on Saturday, Asemahagh Aseres said on the sidelines of a state burial for the officials who were killed.

The militia was a recently formed unit of the region’s security services. It had appealed for others to join its take-over were rebuffed, Asemahagh said.

Another report said that men in camouflage uniforms killed more than 50 people and injured 23 others in the Metakal zone of the Benishangul-Gumuz region early on Monday, the region’s peace and security bureau head Abera Bayeta said.

“They are part of our police. They are not independent,” he said. “(But) most of the forces were not with them. They defended (us) very well.” The fact that the militia were state forces rather than independent raises the stakes for the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has rolled out a package of economic and political reforms since taking office in April last year.

He has lifted a ban on political parties, released journalists, rebels and prisoners, and prosecuted officials accused of abuses.

But his shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies.

His government is also struggling to contain discontent from Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources. Outbreaks of ethnic violence have displaced around 2.4 million people, according to the United Nations.

The spokesman said the militia had detained him when it took over a guesthouse for government officials and also tried and failed to take over the region’s state media.

He said the militia were then chased out of the city.Details of more deaths in a separate but possibly linked attack in a neighbouring state also emerged on Wednesday.

Published in Dawn, June 27th, 2019