Western Ethiopia 'massacre' death toll rises to 222, says Red Cross
December 26, 2020
The death toll from a Wednesday attack in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia has risen to 222 people, a volunteer from the country's Red Cross told Reuters on Friday.
"Yesterday we buried 207 people who are the victims and 15 more from the attackers," said Melese Mesfin.
The attack occurred in the village of Bekoji in Bulen county in the Metekel zone, and the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission initially estimated more than 100 people had been killed.
More than 40,000 people fled their homes due to the fighting, Bulen county spokesman Kassahun Addisu said. He reported the county had buried 207 people.
Wednesday's attack by unidentified gunmen was the latest deadly assault in an area beset by ethnic violence.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called the attack a "massacre" and deployed federal troops there the next day. The military killed 42 armed men accused of attacking the village.
Ethiopia has been grappling with outbreaks of deadly violence since Mr Ahmed was appointed in 2018 and accelerated political reforms that loosened the state's iron grip on regional rivalries.
The Tigray region of the country has been the epicentre of the tumult. This video explains the conflict's background.
Elections due next June have further inflamed rivalries over land, power and resources.
An all-out civil war in Ethiopia would risk a repeat of the East Africa refugee crisis of the 1970s and 1980s, when hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians fled war to take refuge in neighbouring countries, particularly Sudan.
Chaos could also revive old territorial disputes in the Horn of Africa and threaten to drag other nations into further internecine conflicts.