NAIROBI, Kenya -- More than 100 people have been killed in the latest massacre along ethnic lines in western Ethiopia, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said Wednesday, and the toll is expected to rise.
The attack in Metekel zone of Benishangul-Gumuz region occurred a day after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited the region and spoke about the need to end such massacres. Ethnic tensions are a major challenge as he tries to promote national unity in a country with more than 80 ethnic groups.
The attacks are separate from the deadly conflict in Ethiopia's northern Tigray region, where Ethiopian forces and allied regional forces began fighting Tigray regional forces in early November.
Some people in remote villages remained encircled and under threat on Wednesday evening, with the death toll thought to be above 200, Belete Molla, head of the National Movement of Amhara political party, asserted after speaking with residents.
Amnesty International, which spoke with five survivors, said members of the ethnic Gumuz community attacked the homes of ethnic Amhara, Oromo and Shinasha, setting them on fire and stabbing and shooting residents. The Gumuz see minorities as “settlers,” the rights group said.
Dozens of people are still unaccounted for, Amnesty said.
The ruling party in the region, the Benishangul-Gumuz Prosperity Party, said in a statement that armed bandits had committed a “horrifying crime.”
Amharas are the second most populous ethnic group in Ethiopia, and they have been targeted repeatedly in recent weeks. One rebel attack on Nov. 1 in the far western Oromia region killed at least 54 people, according to Amnesty International.
An attack in the Benishangul-Gumuz region in early October killed at least 14 civilians, according to a security official. It followed similar deadly attacks in September that also displaced over 300 people, leading the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission to say it was deeply alarmed.