Civilians killed in drone attacks in the Oromia region in Ethiopia

Eyewitnesses told The Associated Press that aerial drone strikes in the Ethiopian region of Oromia killed dozens of civilians last week.

The attacks on the strongholds of the Oromo Liberation Army rebel group took place amid intense clashes between federal forces and the outlaw group.

“I lost three of my brothers in a drone strike on Wednesday 19 October, “said a witness, who spoke in condition of anonymity for fear of his safety. The attack took place around 12 in the Meta Welkite area. There had been a previous drone attack and they went to take the injured to health centers, but they were killed by a drone along with 20 others. My brothers were all students … (and) we buried their mutilated bodies. “.

Sunday’s deadliest drone strike occurred during a graduation ceremony for members of the Oromo Liberation Army, which Ethiopia describes as a terrorist organization, in Kobe, western Shewa province.

An engineer who witnessed the results of the raid said: “The rebel group asked the residents to participate in the celebration, so there were hundreds of people present … (because) not attending the celebration was not an option. What I saw about 20 minutes after the attack was a massacre. Women, children, the elderly and some members of the rebel group were killed ”.

Local officials declined to comment on the raids, and federal officials did not provide details. But the opposition Oromo Federal Congress, one of Ethiopia’s largest political parties, confirmed the attacks in a statement released on Tuesday.

“Sunday’s unprovoked drone attack killed 7-10 year old children, mothers, the elderly and people with special needs,” reads in a statement from Oromia’s party. “The government… is committed to using drones and fighters against civilians. He is trying to hide these Oromos killings from the public. “

The Oromo Liberation Army, which the Ethiopian government accuses of committing mass murder in recent months, said on Tuesday that the government had used drones and other fighters to “indiscriminately kill civilians” in the regions of Meta, Nono Qemba and Ama. Hagalo and Kobe in Occidente and Oromia Centrale in the last days. .

The Office of Legal Affairs confirmed that the death toll has reached the hundreds, pointing to the target of schools and civilian gatherings.

The rebel group was once a military wing of an opposition party, the Oromo Liberation Army. Its members have returned in Ethiopia in 2018 after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed invited political groups and figures in exile to go home.

But the military wing soon split from the party and began bloody clashes with government forces, affirming its support for the security and right to self-determination of the Oromo people, the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia.

Local reports indicate that the rebel group is expanding its influence, taking advantage of the conflict of government forces in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia.

The conflict in Oromia is separated from the conflict in Tigray. But the Oromo Liberation Army announced at the end of last year its alliance with the Tigray forces with the aim of overthrowing the Ethiopian government.

The government and the representatives of Tigray have started the talks of pace this week.

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