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News: Intense fighting between OLA, gov’t forces in several parts of Oromia kills civilians, cast shadow on peace talks

OLA fighters (Photo: Social Media)

Addis Abeba – Intense fighting supported with heavy weaponry has been going on in several parts of the Oromia region between fighters of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and government forces since the first attempt to peacefully resolve the war was concluded without an agreement, residents told Addis Standard.

A resident in Ambo district of the West Shoa zone of Oromia region, from a place locally known as ‘Waddeessaa’ told Addis Standard on conditions of anonymity that at least five civilian farmers have been killed in an intense fighting that took place in the area between 15 – 17 May.

“At least five farmers whom I have known personally were killed in the fighting. Heavy weapons are being fired and they sometimes fall on civilian settlements, cattle etc. that’s how the farmers are killed,” the resident said.

He expressed his fears that casualties from both warring sides could be significantly high given the intensity of the fighting which he said is “nothing like what we’ve seen before”.

“We hoped the war would be over when we heard about the news of peace talks, but it has gotten even worse,” the resident said.

In Kombosha town of Horro Guduru zone “there was heavy fighting between government troops and the OLA on 17 May starting from 06:00am to 10:30am local time” a resident of the town who asked not to be named for security reasons told Addis Standard.

The resident said that after a heavy fighting, OLA was able to capture the town and managed to release political prisoners. “They broke into a fertilizer warehouse in the town and distributed the fertilizer to the farmers,” he added. 

“Houses were burned down during the heavy fighting,” the resident noted.

“Dadu small town, 24 kilometers from Kombosha, was the scene of heavy fighting between the two sides before the town was controlled by the OLA,” said the resident. 

An employee of Fincha Sugar Factory, in Sulula Fincha district of the Horro Guduru zone who also asked to be anonymous for safety concerns said he has witnessed fierce fighting in the villages surrounding Fincha Sugar Factory over the past couple of days and some of the villages have been overrun by the OLA.

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On 16 May, the OLA fighters carried out an attack in Olanchiti town in Bosat district of the East Shoa zone of the Oromia region, where according to the police two civilians were killed. 

The rebel fighters tried to enter the town with a large force aiming to break into the town’s prison and release prisoners but their attempt was repelled, the Bosat district police chief commander Mohammed Sufa told the BBC. The police chief claimed to have killed six and captured four OLA fighters during the fighting which he said lasted not for more than 30 minutes.

On 14 May, an armed attack on a police station in the Chalalaka sub-city of Bishoftu City in the East Shoa zone left four policemen dead, Addis Standard reported quoting the head of the city’s communication office who said the attack was carried out by unidentified gunmen. 

The OLA later claimed to have carried out the attack and killed 7 government soldiers and 3 intelligence officers. The group said it has repelled government offensives in several fronts, since the conclusion of the first round of talks, and accused the government of “speaking “language of peace for the international community while pursuing aggressive military actions on the ground”.

“After the first round of talks in Tanzania [was] concluded on May 3rd, Arat Kilo initiated a broad offensive across territories in Oromia under our administration. This move starkly contradicts the understanding that de-escalation should be prioritized during negotiation processes. The current offensives seem designed to secure leverage ahead of the second round of talks,” OLA said in a statement on Wednesday.

Reiterating its commitment to peace, the OLA which the government refers to as “Shene” and designated as a “terrorist organization” in May 2021, urged the international community “to condemn the regime’s attempts to control the negotiation terms through military force”.

Upon the conclusion on 03 May of the first round of talks which was held Zanzibar, Tanzania, both sides have said “the talks have been largely constructive” despite failing to reach an agreement on some key issues, adding that “both parties have acknowledged the need to continue these talks with a view to resolving the conflict permanently and peacefully”.

Nothing has been said from the government side about the recent fighting. AS

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