64 Killed in Ethiopia’s Ambush and Reprisals – Rights Commission

An unidentified armed group attacked a civilian convoy and its military escort in western Ethiopia on Sunday, and 53 people died as a result, a national rights body said.

The previously unreported incident took place on March 2 in the region of Benishangul-Gumuz, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission.

As a result of the ambush, twenty soldiers and three civilians were killed, while 30 attackers were killed in the daylong gunfight that ensued.

Security forces executed summary killings the following day – killing 11 people, including one burned alive – as they rounded up suspects.

On Friday, a video was posted on social media showing armed men using a stick to force a man back into a burning pile of bodies after he attempted to flee. The video led the commission to investigate the incident. On Saturday, the government announced that it would take action against the perpetrators. 

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The commission reported that the government troops stopped a bus, pulled out eight ethnic Tigrayan civilians who had just been released from prison, and accused them of orchestrating the attack.

The men were beaten and shot, along with two members of the local Gumuz ethnic group, then their bodies were burned, according to the commission. The commission was told by security officers that they found cash and a satellite phone with the Tigrayan suspects.

The commission added that Ethiopian soldiers and uniformed forces from Amhara and Southern Nations Nationalities and Peoples’ Region assisted in tying up and throwing another Tigrayan to the pyre, which was observed by Ethiopian soldiers and uniformed forces.

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The rights body didn’t identify the security force that killed the civilians.

A separate conflict exists in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, which is home to several ethnic groups. That conflict is separate from that in Tigray, a northern region battling to overthrow central government rule for over 16 months.

In November, a state of emergency was declared in Tigray, which was lifted last month, and at least 15,000 civilians were arrested or detained because of the state of emergency.

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