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News: Amhara, Oromo states scramble with conflicting accounts after armed men gunned down 26 Oromia militiamen, police

Addis Standard Staff

Addis Abeba – Clashes between armed groups from the Minjar Shenkora woreda of North Shewa zone, Amhara regional state, and local militia in the bordering Fentalle woreda, East Shewa zone of Oromia regional state, resulted in the death of at least 26 and injury of several local militias and members of Oromia police, including the militia commander, Abdisa Ifa, according to multiple reports. The clashes were followed by statements from both Woredas with conflicting accounts of the incident. 

The administrator of the Minjar Shenkora woreda, Tadesse Bosset, stated that “an organized armed group” armed with heavy weaponry launched an attack in Amorabet kebele killing and injuring several people. Tadesse blames that the assailants were from the Oromia region that entered the Kebele through the neighboring Fentalle woreda.  The onslaught took place on 29 March, at 1:00 PM local time, according to his account. Some of the injured were taken to nearby hospitals and others to Addis Abeba, according to Taddese, who also added that women and children were immediately evacuated from the area and that a lot of people have fled to the woods; the conditions of those who fled are unknown. 

The Fantalle woreda administration on its part issued a statement later in the day, arguing that the area’s local militia were ambushed by “radical Amhara armed groups” while they were on duty in a location called Qorke, a small town located 15 km from Metehara and on the Ethio-Djibouti railway, which explains the closure of the railway for more than 24 hrs.

What the multiple statements from both sides do not mention is the perpetrators of the killing. In addition to the zonal authorities, both Amhara and Oromia regional governments issued their own separate statements.

Abdisa Ifa, the commander of the militia who were on duty when ambushed, and several other members were killed, according to the statement. The administration vowed to bring to justice those who are “disrupting” the Woreda’s peace. It also recalled that a lot of lives had been lost in the woreda and called on the concerned body to pay special attention to the matter.  

Further complicating the claim and counterclaim is the statement from the administrator of Minjar Shenkor woreda. “The cause of this attack is unclear but one can guess that it was launched by unidentified anti-peace forces deliberately set out to displace residents”, he said and mentioned similar attacks in the past. According to him the clashes were quelled after the arrival of federal police. He urged that further efforts should be made to ensure lasting peace in the area as there are anti-peace forces “from all sides” working to disrupt peace in the region. 

Tadesse Gebretsadik, the administrator of North Shewa zone told the regional broadcaster a different account. According to him, the incident happened when gunmen opened fire while passing by a local areas called Amorabet kebele. The residents notified security forces that the gun men opened fire for the second on their way back when members of the federal police tried to speak with them. 

What the multiple statements from both sides do not mention is the perpetrators of the killing. In addition to the zonal authorities, both Amhara and Oromia regional governments issued their own separate statements.

According to the Oromia regional government’s statement from last night the attack claimed the lives of members of the federal police, in addition to the local militia who were on duty. The regional government blamed the attacks on “extremist forces operating in Manjar Shenkor woreda.”

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On the other hand, the statement from the Amhara regional government warned against the dissemination of misinformation surrounding measures taken on what it called were against “anti-peace groups” without identifying either the group or those it accused of misinformation. However, it warned against deliberate misrepresentation of law enforcement measures taken by the regional security forces to prevent “crimes against humanity.”

Contrary to the earlier statement by the administrator of Minjar Shenkor woreda, the administrator of the East Showa zone, Ababu Wqao, told Addis Standard that the attackers were “illegally armed extremist group that operate under the guise of Fano.” He also said that out of the 26 casualties, 2 of them were members of the federal police who were killed while trying to put the clashes under control and one civilian who was the driver. 

Ababu insisted that the attack took place in the jurisdiction of Oromia state. His statement is also in contrast to that of the Minjar Shenkora woreda administrator, who stated that civilians were killed by armed men that crossed over to the Kebele from the Oromia region. In an interview with VOA Amharic, the administrator of Minjar Shenkora woreda accused the gunmen of killing a member of the federal police. 

The federal government has not yet commented on the incident and the regional government of Oromia state has not made further comments to clarify the conflicting account.  Addis Standard’s repeated attempts to reach the communication head, Hailu Adugna were to no avail. AS

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