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26 killed in airstrike at Ethiopia's conflict-torn Amhara region amid state of emergency

Ethiopia had earlier declared a state of emergency in the Amhara region after a reported surge of violent clashes between a regional ethnic militia and military forces.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee Addis Ababa Updated on: August 14, 2023 23:30 IST
Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed
Image Source : AP/FILE Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed

At least 26 people were killed and 55 persons injured in an airstrike at a crowded town square in Ethiopia's Amhara region, which is grappling with violent clashes between the military and local militia, according to a senior health official. The airstrike comes days after authorities assured that they have restored calm in the area.

The Finote Selam community in Amhara was struck by the airstrike, killing 22 people at the scene and causing some of the injured persons to undergo amputations, said the health official. Two residents said that the airstrike targeted a truck that was carrying civilians returning from delivering food to the Fano militia fighters.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission on Monday said that there were "credible reports of strikes and shelling" in Finote Selam and other Amhara towns, which resulted in many civilian casualties and temporary collapse of local state structure in several areas.

Ethiopia had declared a state of emergency in the Amhara region after a reported surge of violent clashes between a regional ethnic militia and the military. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Friday said that attacks by 'armed extremist groups' were posing an increasing threat to public security and causing immense economic damage. 

A disputed plan to absorb regional forces into the national army has flared violence in Amhara, along with attempts to dismantle the Amhara militia called Fano. The Fano militia had fought together with the Ethiopian military forces in a two-year-conflict with the neighbouring Tigray region, but are now being seen as a threat to constitutional order by the government.

Authorities are now carrying out mass arrests of people in the Ethiopian capital amid the unrest in the Amhara region, say lawyers and other witnesses. Emergency measures put in place have allowed the arrest of suspects without any warrant, along with conducting searches and imposition of curfews. 

Suspects are being held at police stations, schools and other makeshift detention centres in Addis Ababaafter being swept off the streets, said two lawyers to AP.

An ethnic Amhara man said he was arrested by police in plainclothes simply because he was heard discussing about the unrest on the phone and detained at a school with hundreds of others. He was released on Thursday last week without a charge.

However, the Ethiopian federal government said that only 23 people have been arrested under the state of emergency in Addis Ababa, including opposition lawmaker Christian Tadele, who is supposed to have immunity from arrest as a member of the Parliament. 

“No suspect has been arrested apart from these 23 individuals and the information circulating that there are mass arrests is wrong,” said the government's communication service.

The Tigray conflict in Ethiopia had ended in November 2022 with the signing of a ceasefire, but violence continued in several parts of the country, most notably in Oromia, where a band of insurgents has been fighting against the government for five years.

(with AP inputs)

ALSO READ | Ethiopia declares state of emergency in Amhara after surge in violent clashes between regional forces, army

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