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Gunmen kill dozens in bus attack in Ethiopia

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Gunmen killed at least 34 people in a “horrific” bus attack in the Benishangul-Gumuz region of western Ethiopia, the scene of recent deadly violence against civilians, the national human rights agency reported on Sunday.

“The estimated number of victims (deceased), currently 34, is likely to increase,” the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), an independent state institution, said in a statement, which also reported other attacks in the region during the night of Saturday to Sunday.

There is no established link between this violence and the military operations carried out since November 4 by the federal army against dissident authorities in the Tigray region (northern Ethiopia), which have forced more than 20,000 people to flee to Sudan.

The EHRC recalls that at the end of September it had already stressed the “particular gravity and repetition of attacks in the region” of Benishangul-Gumuz.

“This latest attack has tragically increased the human toll” in the region, says the head of the EHRC, Daniel Bekele, who believes that “the rapid intervention of the security forces to avoid any escalation is encouraging”.

The attack took place in the administrative area of Metekel, where at the end of September, the EHRC had already reported the death of 15 civilians in violence described as “targeted killings”.

In mid-October, the ruling Fana BC radio and television station reported the deaths of 12 civilians in the same area of Metekel.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s federal government provided little information on the clashes in the area, stating only that 300 people had been arrested and the causes of the violence were being investigated by the end of September.

In mid-October, Dessalegn Chanie, an opposition politician in the neighboring Amhara region, said the attacks were directed at members of the Amhara ethnic group, the second largest in the country after the Oromos.

Mr. Dessalegn and other Amhara leaders have been claiming for several weeks that militias of members of the Gumuz ethnic group have begun a campaign to drive people of the Amhara and Agew ethnic groups out of the Metekel area.

The prime minister told deputies in October that the attackers were trained and armed in neighboring eastern Sudan and asked Khartoum to stabilize the area.

Ethiopia is a mosaic of many peoples, united in an “ethnic federalism”.

After almost 30 years of iron rule in Ethiopia, the policy of openness launched by Mr. Abiy since he came to power in 2018 has awakened local territorial ambitions and old community disputes, leading to deadly violence.