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News: Residents of Keranio town, Amhara region, in shock a week after seven killed by 'government forces'

Keranio town (Photo: Social Media)

Addis Abeba – In the wake of a recent killing in the town of Keranio, in east Gojam zone of the Amhara region reportedly involving “members of government security forces,” local residents expressed ongoing anxieties.

The killing, which took place on 14 June, 2024, claimed the lives of seven civilians; two others were injured after “government forces,” attacked a group of civilians attending a funeral, according to residents.

According to the residents and eyewitnesses, the attack in the small town of Keranio, happened while villagers were digging a burial pit at the Debre Keranio Medhanialem grounds.

Five civilians died on the spot, with one succumbed to injuries at the hospital, while another, identified as a church student was found deceased.

An eyewitness, who claimed to be among the first to have reached at the scene and remove the bodies, told Addis Standard that “three survivors were found covered in the bodies of those killed after the attack.”

The attack left the residents of the small town in fear. “We are still in a state of worry,” said one resident speaking to Addis Standard by phone, “we don’t know what will happen next.”

Activities in the town have slowed down since the attack and “the people are desperate,” the source stated. “The fear still lingers among us.”

Although members of the military and government officials arrived two days after the attack, “they did not come to talk to the people, but to apprehend an armed man who was in the town.”

“After apprehending him, they killed him outside the town. The individual who was killed was a fighter, armed with a weapon.”

Residents additionally reported an absence of formal governmental structures within the town.

An informant explained, “A temporary conflict resolution committee, elected by the [local community] and established by Fano, has been formed to manage the town’s affairs.”

The killing in Keranio was followed two days later with another attack that took place on Sunday 16 June, in the town of Jiga, Jabitehna district, in West Gojam zone in which at least 13 people were killed.

Teachers, bankers, business shop owners, bajaj drivers and a mentally challenged person were among those who were executed in plain view of the public

An eyewitness, who asked to remain anonymous, reported that before the killings, there was a 20-minute fight between Fano militants and the Defense Forces in an area called Dembecha Ber.

The informant continued, stating that the Fano militants retreated after a 20-minute exchange of fire. This was followed by “members of the Defense Forces retaliated by killing residents.”

Eyewitnesses who were close to the scene of the murders explained that the victims were, “at a hotel called Goh”, spending a leisure time on Sunday afternoon. “They killed youths, government workers, bankers, and teachers -12 people in total -in front of the public.”

Teachers, bankers, business shop owners, bajaj drivers and a mentally challenged person were among those who were executed in plain view of the public after they were forced out of the hotel, according to several local media outlets.

“We have a confirmed a list of 13 dead and two wounded,” stated Abebaw Dessalegn, who is elected by the town residents for the House of Peoples’ Representatives. “We expect the death toll to rise.”

Addis Standard asked the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) regarding their awareness of last week’s incidents of violence in Keraniyo and Jiga towns.

In response, Commissioner Daniel Bekele stated, “We are still working on it and have no comments yet.”

This is the second time in as many months in which civilians were killed in a similar manner by government forces in the crisis-hit region. In February this year, at least 50 people were killed by government forces in what residents described to Addis Standard as “execution” style.

A preliminary report by the government’s Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) confirmed that at least 45 civilians were killed in extrajudicial executions in different parts of Amhara regional state’s east Gojam zone.

The Merawi killings, which has triggered several international calls for independent investigations, took place days before the House of Peoples Representatives prolonged the six-month state of emergency initially declared in August 2023, following the escalation of militarized conflict in the region.

Although the second round state of emergency ended two weeks ago, the federal parliament failed to lift the decree and the region remained under unofficial emergency rule which is not declared by law makers.

Last week, a report by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) revealed that some 740 civilian deaths were recorded in the Amhara region during 2023, with the majority attributed to government security forces engaged in fighting against the Fano militia group. AS

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