The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission says it has received reports from residents that some 150 people were killed earlier this month in an alleged attack by the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA).
A statement by the government-created rights group said the killings in East Wollega in the Oromia region on August 18 were followed by a revenge attack the next day that left another 60 people dead.
The statement said the first attack occurred a day after security forces stationed in the area left. The commission has called for an investigation into why.
The OLA was designated a “terrorist organisation” by lawmakers in May alongside the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF).
Believed to number in the low thousands, the OLA broke off from the Oromo Liberation Front, an opposition party that spent years in exile, but was allowed to return to Ethiopia after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018.
The OLA and TPLF allied themselves to fight against the central government earlier in 2021, and have mounted an adequate defense against Nobel Peace Prize-winning Prime Minister’s Abbiy Ahmed’s forces.
A spokesman for the Oromo Liberation Army, Odaa Tarbii, in a social media post has called the allegations against the armed group “a gross distortion of facts on the ground” and said intense fighting has been ongoing in the area between ethnic Amhara and ethnic Oromos.
The two are Ethiopia’s largest ethnic groups.
The human rights commission’s statement comes after the Amhara Association of America this week alleged that at least 135 Amhara were killed and hundreds of homes destroyed in the Aug. 18 attack by “suspected members of OLA militias.”
Ethnic violence is a major challenge for Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Earlier this month, the OLA and the TPLF announced that they had reached an agreement to fight together against Abiy’s forces and his allies.
A spokesman for the OLA said the two groups mutually agreed that Abiy’s “dictatorship” must be removed and that they were sharing intelligence and coordinating on strategy.
The government denounced the pact as a “destructive alliance” between two groups seeking to destabilize the country.
Northern Ethiopia has been racked by conflict since November when Abiy, the 2019 Nobel Peace Prize winner, sent troops into Tigray to topple the TPLF.
He said the move came in response to TPLF attacks on federal army camps and victory would be swift.
But nine months later, the conflict has spread into the neighbouring regions of Afar and Amhara, and drawn in forces from across Ethiopia.
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