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Mass Killing Stokes Fears in Ethiopia’s Oromia Region

FILE - A map of Ethiopia.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has condemned Saturday’s killings in Oromia which residents say left mostly ethnic Amharas dead. Locals say they are "waiting to die" following the latest violence.

Witnesses say over 200 people were killed in Ethiopia's Oromia region and blame the killings on the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), which has denied responsibility. The federal government has reportedly deployed security personnel to the region.

Ahmed Hassen, an ethnic Amhara, says he lost his brother and sister-in-law. Ahmed, who spoke to VOA by phone, said fighters circled their village and butchered the residents.

According to him, the militia came with guns and machetes, killing 250 people. While there’s calm in Oromia today, he said, many families are too scared to bury loved ones.

“In the afternoon, yesterday when we tried to bury our loved ones, there were lots of snipers shooting, we couldn’t bury our family members,” he said. “We are not alive, we are waiting to die.”

In a tweet, Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said the federal government’s key priority is "restoring peace and security in affected communities."

He condemned the killings, saying that the "attacks on innocent civilians" and "destruction of livelihoods" is "unacceptable."

Both the government and locals blame the OLA for Saturday’s attack. The group denies responsibility.

OLA spokesperson Odaa Tarbii told VOA it was government forces and the Oromia state-created militia Gaachina Sirna that were near Gimbi town where the attack happened.

He said it is not clear which armed group carried out the atrocity.

Odaa said many of those killed were not necessarily ethnic Amharas, noting that members of other tribes such as the Oromo and Sinishos are also residents of the town.

“We are also wondering what transpired, what led to any shootout or any conflict between the local civilians and the government’s forces,” he said. “Of course, you know, it is very painful for us to hear about civilians, unarmed, living their lives being killed in such a manner. There’s a danger that this country will grow numb to these things and not really even take action or demand for justice.”

The OLA is calling for an independent investigation into the killings.

As more federal security personnel are deployed in Oromo to quell the violence, the prime minister said there will be zero tolerance for horrific acts claiming lives.