Survivors of a massacre at a school in the western Oromia region of Ethiopia reported that at least 54 ethnic Amhara, most of whom are thought to have been Christians, died, according to a body count made after gunmen opened fire on a gathering of about 200.
Around 60 armed terrorists, identifying themselves as the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), swept into Gawa Quanqa village, Guliso District at around 5 p.m. on 1 November.
In the latest attack targeting ethnic Amhara, who are mainly Christian, some survivors were able to flee to a nearby forest while the assailants rounded up women, children and elderly who were unable to run away, before shooting at the defenceless group.
“This senseless attack is the latest in a series of killings in the country in which members of ethnic minorities have been deliberately targeted,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s regional director for East and Southern Africa.
One victim found the bullet-riddled bodies of his brother, sister-in-law and three children in the school compound.
Witnesses said that the attackers dragged some victims from their homes to the school and reported that a school building and 120 houses were burnt down.
The gunmen arrived, announcing that they “controlled the area” near the South Sudanese border, just hours after federal troops “withdrew unexpectedly”, according to witnesses.
In a Facebook post, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said, “This is heartbreaking”, and denounced the killings as “barbaric attacks based on identity”.
The official government death toll was cited as 32. However, The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC), which described the assault as “unconscionable”, said preliminary evidence suggested that the number is “very likely” to rise.
Around 200 families have also now fled the area, according to regional police.
This is the latest deadly assault in a spate of massacres in the past month in Ethiopia, which have left several dozen dead, apparently targeting the Amhara, a mainly Christian ethnic group.