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Group says Ethiopian Army killed 45 Civilians in January

by DReporters
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Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) is accusing the Ethiopian security forces of killing at least 45 civilians in their homes in Amhara State in late January.

In a statement, the commission said that victims in the northern town of Merawi were killed for allegedly supporting Fano, an Amharic word meaning “volunteer fighters.” A pregnant woman was among the victims. The commission said it can be assumed that the number of victims is even higher.

The BBC was told by Witnesses that uniformed Ethiopian security officers conducted house-to-house searches after several hours of fighting between Ethiopian forces and Fano fighters on January 29. An anonymous survivor told the BBC “They went into my brother’s house,”. “They brought him and 12 others out to the streets and shot them.”

Most victims were young men. One woman said she was grieving the death of her younger brother, a civil servant. “He was with his son,” she told the BBC. “They told me to hold the child. They took [my brother] and killed him.”

One man escaped the raid but returned to a gruesome sight. “When I got out the next day, I saw bodies lying on the roads,” he said.

A civil servant in Bure, another Amhara State town that has seen frequent clashes between Ethiopian forces and Fano, said in mid-February that government offices there have not been fully operating for months due to the conflict.
“Heavy weapons are fired randomly and sometimes [the violence] goes on for hours,” the worker told the BBC.

The fighting coincides with a rise in deadly drone use.

Tewodrose Tirfe, chairman of the Amhara Association of America, told Al Jazeera in December 2023 that his organization had collected information on about 70 drone strikes that have killed civilians in Amhara since May. The Ethiopian Army is the only operator of armed drones in the country.
According to the United Nations. Drone strikes hit civilian targets in Amhara, including a school compound and bus station, in December. Ethiopia’s government has denied targeting civilians but has vowed to eradicate “extremists.”
The violence in Amhara stems from a 2021 peace deal signed by the Ethiopian government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) to end a conflict in the neighboring Tigray region. Although Amhara special forces and Fano fighters fought for the federal army in Tigray, Amharas were excluded from the negotiations, the BBC reported.
Amharas were suspicious of the deal as the regions have long had border disputes.
The TPLF’s youth wing slaughtered about 1,560 Amharas over four days in 2020. The TPLF also is accused of massacring at least 750 civilians in Amhara and the Afar region in the second half of 2021, according to the EHRC.

Some of the Amhara special forces that fought in Tigray have since integrated into the federal army and police force, as was proposed by Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed. But many others deserted to Fano.

Fighting escalated last year after Abiy’s government launched a disarmament campaign. The militia, which typically hides in mountains and small villages, did not want to lay down arms over fears of attacks from Tigray and other regions.
Fano responded to the disarmament campaign with attacks on government and military posts and tried to establish their administrations in some areas.

The militia briefly controlled the airport in Lalibela and advanced on Bahir Dar and Gondar, the largest regional cities, as well as the industrial city of Debrebirhan. The fighters also have stolen weapons and ammunition from police stations and raided a prison in Bahir Dar, freeing thousands of inmates, according to the BBC.

The surging violence prompted the Ethiopian government in August 2023 to impose a state of emergency in Amhara. It was extended by four months days after the massacre in Merawi. The government is accused of using the state of emergency to arbitrarily detain five politicians and three journalists.

“The Ethiopian government must stop resorting to old tactics of denying basic rights through the pretext of emergency laws,” Tigere Chagutah, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southern Africa, said on the organization’s website.
“Ethiopians face another armed conflict in Amhara region, a serious humanitarian crisis in Tigray, a dire security situation in Oromia, and pervasive impunity nationwide,” Chagutah added.

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