News: 45 believers killed in two separate attacks in Arsi and Kellem Wollega zones, Oromia region

Members of two families constitute half of the 36 people killed in Shirka, Arsi zone (Photo:Tewahedo Media Center/Facebook)

Addis Abeba – 45 people were killed in two separate violent attacks committed last week in Arsi and Kellem Wollega zones of the Oromia region. The attacks reportedly targeted believers, according to residents and officials.

In Shirka district of Arsi zone, residents say a total of 36 people were killed by unidentified armed men following attacks committed on 23 and 27 November 2023. One anonymous resident told VOA that the victims were Orthodox Christians and the attacks were identity based, adding that children and elderly women were among them.

Hailu Adugna, head of the Oromia Communication Bureau put the death toll from the attacks in Sirka district at 27, accusing the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) of perpetrating the crime. The armed group committed the atrocity to retaliate against a recent government offensive in Chawaka district of Buno Bedele zone, the bureau head told VOA.

Spokesperson for the OLA, Odaa Tarbii however vehemently denied the accusation stating that the government is scapegoating the OLA after its forces committed widespread atrocities including killing civilians and burning houses between 24 and 27 November 2023 in the district.

In a separate incident, on 24 November 2023, 9 people were killed in Gidami district of Kellem Wollega zone. The victims were partaking in an overnight prayer at the Mana Hamo congregation of the Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus (EECMY) when they were taken by unidentified armed men, Lalisa Daniel (PhD), Evangelism and Theology department head at the EECMY, told the BBC.

According to Lalisa, the 9 people, who were found dead two days later, included church leaders and organizers who were praying in preparation for the Sunday service, and none of them were involved in political activities.

Perpetrators of the crime haven’t been identified according to Lalisa, but unverified pictures of the deceased, piled up on one another, have been widely shared on social media over the past days with allegations that government forces committed the killing. Neither the Church nor the government issued an official statement on the killing in Gidami district.

Following the collapse of the second round of talks, hostilities between OLA and the Ethiopian  government have been escalating over the past weeks with civilians often caught in the crossfire.

On 20 November 2023, four civilians were killed amidst a fierce fighting between government forces and the armed group in Sulula Fincha district of the Horro Guduru Wollega zone, Addis Standard reported. Two days later, OLA affiliated ‘Arraata Biyyoolessa Oromiyaa‘ reported the killing of at least 25 civilians, allegedly in a government drone strike, in Chawaka districts of the Buno Bedelle zone. AS

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