ADDIS ABABA: Gunmen attacked Ethiopia's western Oromiya region on Saturday, killing at least 320 civilians.Survivors characterised the massacre as one of the deadliest in Ethiopia in some years, according to reports released on Sunday.
There was no indication that the attack was linked to a conflict in Tigray's northern region that began in November 2020 and has resulted in the deaths of thousands of people and the displacement of millions.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had earlier on Monday condemned "horrific deeds" in Oromiya without providing any information. On Twitter, he added, "Attacks on innocent residents and destruction of livelihoods by illegal and irregular forces are intolerable."
Oromiya, home to Ethiopia's biggest ethnic group, the Oromo, as well as members from other ethnic groups, has been wracked by instability for years, stemming from frustrations over political marginalisation and neglect by the central government. Abiy is an Oromo and Ethiopia's first prime minister, although some Oromos believe he has abandoned the community's interests.
The victims, according to two residents who described the incident on Saturday, were ethnic Amharas, a minority in the region.
There was no evidence that the attack was linked to a conflict in Tigray's northern area that began in November 2020 and has killed thousands of people and displaced millions.
The incident took place in Oromia's western region, in the Gimbi area of the western Wollega zone. One resident reported there were 260 people killed, while another said there were 320. Residents feared for their safety and refused to reveal their names.
On Sunday, a witness stated the local Amhara population was yearning to be transferred "before another round of mass executions," adding that ethnic Amharas who had been resettled in the area for roughly 30 years were being "slaughtered like chickens."
The Oromia regional government blamed the Oromo Liberation Army in a statement, saying the rebels attacked "after being unable to repel [federal] security forces' operations."
The Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) is a banned splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front, a formerly banned opposition organisation that returned from exile after Abiy gained government in 2018. Last year, the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF), which has been fighting the federal government in Ethiopia's northern region, made an alliance with the group. There was no indication that the TPLF was involved in the attack in Gimbi on Saturday.
A new government offensive has forced the OLA to evacuate from some places where it had previously exerted significant influence in recent months. The massacre comes after the group launched a series of counterattacks last week.