Government forces massacre 45 civilians in Ethiopia, rights body says

The EHRC, an independent state-affiliated body, has revealed that 45 civilians were unlawfully killed by government forces in Amhara state for allegedly supporting an ethnic armed group.

According to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), an independent federal state body, government security forces massacred at least 45 civilians in Amhara state in late January.

The EHRC said in a statement that it had verified “the identity of at least 45 civilians who were unlawfully killed by government security forces for allegedly ‘supporting [ethnic Amhara armed group] Fano’.”

“It can be presumed that the number of victims is even higher,” it added.

The massacre occurred in the town of Merawi in Amhara, where Ethiopia’s military and Fano, a “self defence” group with no known leadership that recruits local volunteers, had been clashing for months.

The federal government declared a state of emergency in August, which was extended by four months this month, due to the fighting.

The region has also witnessed an increase in lethal drone attacks.

Tewodrose Tirfe, the chairman of the Amhara Association of America, a US-based advocacy group, told Al Jazeera in December that his organisation had collected data on about 70 drone strikes that resulted in civilian deaths in the Amhara region since May.

The Ethiopian army is the sole user of armed drones in the country, which is located in the Horn of Africa.

The United States expressed deep concern last week over reports of “deliberate civilian killings” in Merawi and urged an independent inquiry.

The violence in Amhara is the worst crisis Ethiopia has faced since a peace deal was reached in November 2022 to end a two-year war in the neighbouring region of Tigray.

Amhara regional forces, including Fano, joined forces with federal troops to fight against Tigrayan rebels, but relations deteriorated in April last year when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government decided to disband state militias across the country.

Amhara nationalists opposed the decision and said it would undermine their region.

The EHRC blamed federal government forces in September for extrajudicial killings in Amhara, and mass arbitrary arrests in the region and elsewhere.

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