Ethiopia's army kills 42 in response to brutal massacre, officials say
The Ethiopian National Defense on Parade in Addis Ababa in September - Shutterstock
The Ethiopian army has killed 42 people who it claims massacred more than 100 civilians in the west of the country this week, officials said Thursday.
Eyewitnesses and officials said that early Wednesday in the Metekel zone in Benishangul-Gumuz at least 102 people were killed in a terrible, ethnically fueled, pre-dawn massacre.
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The attackers reportedly set fields and houses on fire and burned people alive while they slept.
News of the massacre comes at a turbulent and dangerous time in Africa's second largest nation.
Since the beginning of November, the federal government and allied regional armed forces such as Eritrea have carried out a deadly military campaign in the northern Ethiopian province of Tigray to overthrow the powerful regional government there.
The Tigray conflict has killed thousands and humanists estimate that more than 1 million people in the northern region itself have been internally displaced.
The most recent massacre in Benishangul-Gumuz is completely independent of the conflict. But the conflict has drained government forces and resources, and has raised fears of a security vacuum elsewhere in regions prone to deadly ethnic violence.
According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, a government-affiliated agency that first reported the massacre, no security forces were stationed in the region at the time of the attack.
Regardless of Tigray, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed faces myriad challenges, including attempts to promote national unity in a country of more than 80 ethnic groups.
Ethnic violence has been a significant problem since Mr Abiy came to power in 2018 due to widespread protests against the old ruling clique.
Many fear the so-called “Balkanization” of Ethiopia - the dissolution of the country according to ethnic criteria.
Competitions for land and resources in Benishangul-Gumuz have resulted in inter-ethnic violence, and this week's massacre was only the latest atrocity in the region in recent months.
Mr. Abiy said he had sent a "joint force" to the area to "solve the problem".
"The Ethiopian defense force destroyed 42 anti-peace forces who attacked civilians yesterday," the regional government said in a statement on Thursday in the Metekel zone.
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