Ethiopia’s military killed 42 armed men accused of attacking a village in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region, state-affiliated Fana TV reported on Thursday, as the government sent in more troops to contain ethnic tensions.
Government forces seized bows and arrows and other weapons from the armed men, Fana said in its report that cited unnamed regional officials. It did not say when the clash took place or which group was involved.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said yesterday he was sending forces to the region, which borders Sudan, the day after unidentified attackers torched homes and killed more than 100 people in a village there.
Ethiopia has been grappling with outbreaks of deadly violence since Abiy was appointed in 2018 and accelerated political reforms that loosened the state’s iron grip on regional rivalries.
Elections due next year have further inflamed rivalries over land, power and resources.
The latest violence comes as Ethiopia’s military is battling a rebellious force in the 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 Benishangul-Gumuz region is very tragic,” Abiy said on Twitter. “The government, to solve the root causes of the problem, has deployed a necessary force.”
Wednesday’s raid on the village of Bekoji in Bulen County killed more than 100 people, the state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said.
Thousands of people fled the village and slept in the forest or in schools, Ethiopian Red Cross volunteer Mesfin Mesele said by phone yesterday. “There are mothers who lost their husbands and children who lost their parents,” he said. “We have nothing to feed them. They walked 25 kilometers.”
It was not immediately clear who was responsible for Wednesday’s attack or who was targeted.
The region is home to several ethnic groups. In recent years, people from the neighboring Amhara region have started moving into the area, prompting some ethnic Gumuz to complain that fertile land is being taken away.