Addis Abeba – Military engagements between armed groups and government forces within the premises of a local monastery in Debre Elias district of East Gojjam Zone in Amhara Region since last week has resulted in several casualties, according to reports.
Debre Elias district peace and security office said in a statement that precautionary actions were executed by Defense forces against armed individuals alleged to be utilizing the monastery in Degolma kebele as a hideout, while ensuring minimal damage to the religious institution.
The office claims that the action was necessitated after the monastery became a haven for armed individuals who target religious leaders, prominent elders, and government officials.
Despite pleas by religious leaders, elders and government officials to withdraw using the monastery as a base, the armed individuals were receiving military training, fortifying the monastery, acquiring weapons, and recruiting defectors from the government, the statement added.
Contrary to the office’s statement, eyewitnesses informed Deutsche Welle that heavy weaponry was deployed during the fighting, resulting in significant harm to the church.
According to the eyewitnesses, over 600 individuals resided in the monastery, and the majority of them suffered injuries, fatalities, or displacement in the clashes which reportedly spanned five consecutive days and concluded on Tuesday around noon.
Additionally, more than 200 government security personnel were injured and subsequently treated at a local hospital, DW reported.
The Debre Elias district peace and security office, however, cautioned against false rumors propagated by certain media outlets that aim to smear the district and incite public discord against the government and called upon the public to support the security forces and safeguard the area.
In response to the incident, the opposition Enat Party acknowledged receiving information regarding the deaths of monastery members due to the heavy weapon attack near the Holy Trinity Monastery, and extended their condolences to the victims.
The party appealed to the government to promptly cease the large-scale attack near the Holy Trinity Monastery and assume responsibility for the loss of life and the destruction of sacred sites.
They demanded transparency in clarifying the situation and advocated for a peaceful resolution to any underlying issues. The party criticized the government, alleging a consistent disregard for the well-being of the people and a lack of respect towards orthodox clerics and believers.
On 31 May, the Amhara Prosperity Party (APP) issued a stern warning, pushing back at what it said was the threats of growing internal disputes and the rise of armed groups within the Amhara region, and threatened to take decisive actions to maintain the peace, security, and economic stability of the region. AS