Ethiopia blames militia for killing 338 people in Oromiya region in June

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ADDIS ABABA, June 30 (Reuters) – About 340 people were killed in an attack in the western part of Ethiopia’s Oromiya region earlier this month, the Prime Minister’s spokeswoman said on Thursday, blaming a militia formerly allied to an opposition party.

Oromiya, home to Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group and others, has experienced unrest for many years, rooted in grievances about political marginalisation and neglect by the central government.

On June 18 gunmen killed at least 200 people in the Gimbi district of Western Wollega Zone, according to two local witnesses who helped bury the bodies.

“Per data I have received from the Oromiya region yesterday, the number of victims identified so far rests at 338,” the prime minister’s spokesperson Billene Seyoum told reporters.

Ethnic Oromos, Amharas and Gumuz were among the victims, she said, accusing the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) of responsibility.

The group has previously denied involvement and called for independent investigation.

The OLA is an outlawed splinter group of the Oromo Liberation Front, a formerly banned opposition group that returned from exile after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office in 2018.

A United Nations-appointed International Commission of Human Rights Experts on Ethiopia called for member states to provide it with experienced investigators and other logistical support so it can scrutinize atrocities such as the latest attack in Oromiya.

“The most recent events in western Oromiya clearly fall within the mandate of the commission and require immediate, urgent and thorough investigations,” Betty Murungi, chair of the commission, told member states at a briefing in Geneva on Thursday.

Ethiopian federal troops went to war with rebellious Tigrayan forces in November 2020. Since then, Reuters has reported atrocities by all sides, including executions and sexual violence, which the belligerents have denied.

Reporting by Addis Ababa newsroom and Duncan Miriri Writing by Hereward Holland Editing by James Macharia Chege and Lisa Shumaker