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News: At least 50 killed on IDPs shelter in East Wollega, attack blamed on Oromo rebels; eight more killed by federal forces accused of links with rebels: Rights Commission

IDPs in Ano town. Picture: EHRC

Addis Abeba – A new report by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said at least 50 people, including women and children, were killed in an attack between 02 and 04 February targeting an IDP camp in East Wollega zone, Gobu Seyu Woreda, Ano town of the Oromia regional state.

Similarly, eight youths were killed by the federal security forces after the army recaptured the city following the attack on the IDP. They were “killed on suspicion of collaborating with Shene”, the report said.

Citing its interviews with witnesses, government agencies and victims’ families, EHRC said that survivors said the attacks were perpetrated by “a large number of armed men dressed in military uniforms of the Oromo Liberation Army (commonly known as OLF/Shene)” who entered the Ano town in three different directions.

“Subsequently, it was reported that a series of gunshots began to be heard in different directions of the city, and that civilians were killed and injured, property looted and destroyed,” EHRC said. Among the victims include a regional official and his driver, city police and members of the Kebele militia. “Among them, 42 victims were displaced people living in IDP shelters and intermingling with the host community, as well as residents who were said to support the government. Four women and three children were among the dead,” the report said.

On the other hand, the Commission cited an interview of OLA spokesman Odaa Tabii on their response to the accusations given to the Voice of America, in which the group “admitted to having committed the attack. However, without providing evidence, they stated that the attack was on members of the Amhara forces who were training in the camp and not on civilians.”

However, EHRC said that the main targets of the attack were IDPs who have been displaced from different localities of the Gobu Sayo woreda and have taken shelter in different parts of the town. Its report added that of 2022, some 10, 800 IDPs from 11 kebeles of Gobu Sayo Woreda and two bordering kebeles, are living in Ano town both inside and outside shelters.

The gunmen went from house to house in the area known as ‘Monday Market’ and killed the IDPs who were living among host communities, especially members of the Amhara community, the report said. It added about an attack on a compound located in the town and which was previously owned by the Kebele administration but was converted into a shelter for the displaced elderly, women and children displaced persons. In this attack, “they selectively killed displaced men in the compound who could not escape”, and among them were “those whose bodies were set on fire after being killed. Due to this attack, the evacuees were dispersed to different areas and the shelter was temporarily closed.”

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The Commission refers to information it obtained from families of the victims that the local community buried the bodies of the dead on the day of the attack and the next day. “Apart from that, eight people suffered minor and serious injuries. As a result of the attack, private commercial stores, government offices, Ano branch of the Ethiopian Commercial Bank and other institutions in the town were looted and destroyed on a large scale.”

The Commission said it visited the shelter where the IDPs lived in January this year, before the attack, and after the attack on 10 February, and “confirmed that the attack was committed against the IDPs living in the shelter and with the community.”

“The limited government security force in the city was trying to stop the attack, but the militants outnumbered the government security forces as they were large in number and the attack was planned and prepared until 12:00 PM, when additional security forces arrived from Nekemte, the militants roamed the city killing and looting,” the report said.

EHRC Chief Commissioner Dr. Daniel Bekele, commented, the findings of the commission’s long-term monitoring and investigation reports into the conflict in the Oromia region show that the main victims are civilians who are vulnerable in various ways. He added that targeting places where people displaced due to conflict and have taken refuge is “unacceptable under any circumstances and is against international human rights provisions.”

The Commission called on all parties to refrain from targeting civilians and civilian properties, and for the government to conduct a criminal investigation to ensure accountability for the attacks. In addition, EHRC called on the government to properly fulfill its duty to protect the safety of civilians, and find a peaceful solution to the conflict in order to ensure the safety of civilians in the region. AS

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