News: Local officials refute al-Shabab operating in Oromia's Bale zone, posing security threats

Al-Shabaab is an Islamist insurgent group based in Somalia (Photo:Anadolu)

Addis Abeba – Local officials have denied a report that al-Shabaab is operating in the Bale zone of the Oromia region, and that it killed several zonal police officers and militiamen.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) in 130-page, National Inquiry Into Persons Deprived of Liberty report released on 21 March 2024, indicated that the security challenges in Bale Zone, include “the formation of a terrorist group called al-Shabaab in Bale Forest by foreigners trained in Kenya, Somalia, and Uganda.”

The report, which analyzed rights violations related to deprivation of liberty in four regions between April 2018 and April 2023, referenced assistant commissioner Jeylan Aman, head of the Bale Zone Police, and said “the group recruited members and provided them with combat training,” adding that “several zonal police officers and militiamen were killed by the group, against which the police took measures in response.”

However, assistant commissioner Jeylan Aman told Addis Standard that there has been no al-Shabaab group operating in the Bale zone. He asserted that no civilians or members of the security forces were killed by the group in the zone, adding that he doesn’t know about the EHRC report.

Nonetheless, Nata Dhaba, head of the communications office of the neighboring East Bale zone told Addis Standard that in October 2023, four alleged al-Shabaab members were captured and handed over to the National Defense Forces, while one was killed in action.

Despite rumors of the group operating in the border areas of Oromia and Somali regions, Rayitu district of East Bale zone, in particular, “we surveilled the area, and didn’t find any al-Shabaab terrorist group so far, they are not there,” the official said. He further stated that no one has been killed by the group in the East Bale zone, and that the group poses no security threat.

Five districts of the East Bale zone; Sawena, Rayitu, Laga Hidha, Dawe Qachan and Dawe Sarar share borders with the Somali region which shares an extended border with Somalia, a base for the al-Shabaab militant group.

It is recalled that in July 2022, Al-Shabaab entered through the Afdheer zone into the Somali region of Ethiopia after attacking Aato and Yeed towns, where Somali region Liyu police were encamped in the Bakool region of southwestern Somalia and bordering Ethiopia.

Earlier in 2001, the Oromia regional government revealed the apprehension of a group linked to the al-Shabaab, called ‘Kawarija’ in Dalo Mana district of the Bale zone. The group recruited and encamped people for military training while preparing others for similar training. AS

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