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News: More airstrikes kill dozens in Mendi, West Wollega; mounting civilian causalities draw outcry

Top scoring high-school student Fenet Alemayehu Tafesse, left, and her brother Eyob Alemayehu Tafesse are believed to have been among the mounting civilian causalities due to increased airstrikes in western Oromia. Their pictures are widely circulating among social media users.
Disclaimer: Due to difficulties in communication, Addis Standard did not independently verify the exact circumstances surrounding the killing.

Addis Abeba – Yet another airstrike on Wednesday 09 November by the federal forces has killed dozens of civilians in the town of Mendi, in Mana Sibu district of West Wallaga zone in Oromia regional state. The town of Mendi, which is approximately located 571km from the capital Addis Abeba, has been reportedly under the control of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) since last week.

The area and its surroundings are experiencing severe communication blackout, but those who manged to speak to media say the latest air strike took place on Wednesday between 7:00 – 8:00 pm local time. The repeated drone strikes targeted a vehicle belonging to the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which the government refers to as “OLF/Shene”, but most of the deaths were civilians, according to eye witnesses.

“There are around twenty people dead in total,” one eye witness said.

The international spokesman of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), Odaa Tarbii, said on Wednesday that more than 30 civilians were killed and many were wounded in four drone strikes in Mendi town. “They hit market areas and bus stops, killing more than 30 civilians, and injuring many more,” he said, adding that the attacks “did not target military positions but instead targeted civilian gatherings.”

The opposition, Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), said in a statement on November 10 that more than 100 civilians were killed and many wounded in four rounds of air strikes in two places in Mendi town and near Daleti area on Wednesday, the party said quoting “reliable sources”.

This comes days after a heavy fighting between fighters of the rebel group OLA and government forces in Nekemte city of East Wollega zone, which also resulted in the killing of civilians including students.

There has been increasing reports of government airstrikes killing civilians in several locations in Oromia. The reports has led to widespread condemnations including from Jawar Mohammed, ofthe opposition Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), who has not been issuing such statements of condemnation at his private capacity after he was released from prison. Jawar posted on his Facebook on Thursday saying that “the indiscriminate use of air attack [in Oromia] has exacerbated civilian casualty”.

“We cannot shoot and bomb our way out of Ethiopia’s political crisis that’s leading the country towards rapid disintegration,” he added, while also criticizing the international community for not paying enough attention to the security crisis in Oromia and Benishangul Gumuz regions. He has urged for a “comprehensive peace” in Ethiopia.

Various social media users are also expressing their anger and protest by posting photos of people killed in recent attacks by government forces in Western Oromia and videos showing the damage caused by the attacks.

The rebel group Oromo Liberation Army claims more than 300 civilians have been killed in several drone strikes in Oromia in the past two weeks.

A resident of Bila town told AP that he saw bodies of several people fallen on the ground in an airstrike last week, November 02. BBC also reported that more than 60 people, including a grade 11 student, were killed in the same attack.

It is recalled that Addis Standard reported that at least 68 civilians were killed in a drone strike in Ofu Bekke village of Chobi district in West Showa zone on October 23.

In its statement, OLF called on the United Nations and international and national human rights organizations to “investigate these brutal killings of civilians, including women, children and the elderly”.

Neither the Oromia regional state nor the federal government have commented on the recent escalation of fighting in Oromia and allegations of killings of civilians.

The Ethiopian government signed a ceasefire agreement with TPLF forces last week to end the two-year war in northern Ethiopia. The Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC), said the Ethiopian government should sign a similar ceasefire agreement with OLA, if it wants to establish peace.

“… we call on the Ethiopian government to cease the war and move towards a peaceful solution to the problems in Oromia and other regions of the country. OFC also calls on the political parties in the country, the people of Ethiopia, the international community and other regions of the country to put pressure on the government”. AS

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