Ethiopian troops kill armed men accused of deadly village attack - Fana TV
ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - Ethiopia's military killed 42 armed men accused of attacking a village in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region, state-run Fana TV reported Thursday as the government dispatched more troops to contain ethnic tensions.
Government forces confiscated bows and arrows and other weapons from the armed men, Fana said in her report, which cited unnamed regional officials. No mention was made of when the clash took place or which group was involved.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Thursday he was sending forces to Benishangul-Gumuz, which borders Sudan, a day after unidentified attackers set houses on fire and killed more than 100 people in a village.
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Ethiopia has grappled with outbreaks of deadly violence since Abiy was appointed in 2018, accelerating political reforms that have eased the state's iron hold on regional rivalries.
The upcoming elections next year have further fueled rivalries over land, power and resources.
The latest violence comes from the Ethiopian military fighting a rebel force in the separate northern Tigray region, with a mass deployment of troops that has raised fears of a security vacuum in other areas.
"The massacre of civilians in the Benishangul-Gumuz region is very tragic," Abiy said on Twitter. "The government has put in a necessary force to address the root causes of the problem."
In the raid on Wednesday at dawn in the village of Bekoji in Bulen County, more than 100 people were killed, the Ethiopian state human rights commission said.
Thousands of people fled the village and slept in the forest or in schools, Mesfin Mesele, an Ethiopian Red Cross volunteer, told Reuters on Thursday by phone.
"There are mothers who have lost their husbands and there are children who have lost their parents," he said. "We have nothing to feed them. They ran 25 kilometers."
Mesele said he went with soldiers late Wednesday to collect bodies and found 93 bodies on a road into the village.
"There are still bodies to collect," he said.
Two medics in the area told Reuters they had heard reports of new clashes in two other nearby areas but had not received any details. They said they treated people with gunshot and knife wounds.
It wasn't immediately clear who was responsible for Wednesday's attack or who was being targeted.
Several ethnic groups live in the region. In recent years, people from the neighboring Amhara region have started moving to the region, leading some ethnic Gumuz to complain about fertile land being taken away, experts say.
Some Amhara leaders have publicly said that part of the country - particularly the area where the violence took place - historically belongs to them, which the Gumuz deny.
The Human Rights Commission said survivors she spoke to believed most of the victims were from the Shinasha group. Reuters interviewed one survivor who was Shinasha and one who was Amhara.
The Ethiopian state news agency reported that five high-ranking officials, including a federal minister of state, were arrested in connection with security issues in Benishangul-Gumuz. Certain allegations or charges were not elaborated.
(Reporting by Addis Ababa Newsroom; writing by Omar Mohammed and Maggie Fick; editing by Hugh Lawson, Alexandra Zavis and Andrew Heavens)
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