Ethiopia: At least 200 civilians, mostly Amhara, killed in Saturday’s attack, officials say.

According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (ECHR), the attack on the town of Gimbi was linked to fighting between government forces and the APW. The EHRC told CNN on Monday that “many people have been injured, villages have been destroyed and entire communities have been injured” in the attack.

The OLA, which last year joined Tigrayan rebel forces against the Ethiopian federal government in the country’s protracted conflict, has denied all accusations. OLA spokesman Odaa Tarbiyi said on Sunday that Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s “regime” is “again blaming the OLA for atrocities committed by its own retreating militants.”

The rebel group has been designated a terrorist organization by the Ethiopian government and is often accused of attacks on civilians and attacks on ethnic Amhars.

The incident is one of the worst atrocities to take place in the country since fighting broke out in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region in 2020, when the Abiy government and its allies from the neighboring Amhara region attempted to put down the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) uprising. .

The TPLF dominated the Ethiopian government until Abiy came to power in 2018.

In the civil war that followed, atrocities were committed on both sides, according to human rights groups, and risks splitting an ethnically diverse country. There is no suggestion that the TPLF was involved in Saturday’s attack.

A local police officer involved in responding to Saturday’s incident told CNN that an attack took place on Saturday near Tole, a village in Gimbi, with most of the victims belonging to the Amhara ethnic group. The police officer spoke on condition of anonymity as he is not authorized to speak on the matter.

He said the attack came days after heavy fighting between government security forces and the APW in the area.

Ethiopian government and Tigrayan forces move towards negotiations

Survivors and fugitives told the policeman that the attack began when members of the APW tried to cross the village, but the locals and some armed civilians denied them access.

A Tole resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisals, said he saw APV policemen walking along the main road on Saturday morning before dispersing to neighboring villages. He added that government forces seen in Tola earlier this week left the area a few days before the attack.

The police officer said the respondents were sent to the scene on Sunday to collect and bury the bodies.

He added that federal forces have now secured the area, but “residents are still asking for immediate assistance due to security concerns in the area,” the EHRC said in a statement.

According to a statement released on Sunday, Oromiya’s regional government also accused the OLA of targeting civilians after “failing to withstand attacks from security forces” and vowed to intensify attacks on the group.

Prime Minister Abiy said “attacks against innocent civilians and the destruction of their livelihood by illegal and irregular forces are unacceptable” in a tweet on Monday.

EHRC head Daniel Bekele urged authorities to “ensure the necessary measures to protect civilians” and “find a lasting solution to the problem,” the commission said in a statement on Sunday.

Ethiopia is an ethnically and religiously diverse nation with about 110 million people who speak many different languages. Its two largest ethnic groups, Oromo and Amhara, make up over 60% of the population. Tigrayans, the third largest, make up about 7%.

Abiy said last week that the Ethiopian government formed a negotiating committee forces from the Tigray region. This event marks an important step towards peace talks between the two sides.