Town in Ethiopia’s Somali region attacked

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Local government in Ethiopia’s Somali region said militia from the neighbouring Afar region attacked and looted a town, the latest flare-up in a local boundary dispute adding to broader tensions in the Horn of Africa nation.

Ali Bedel, spokesperson for the Somali regional government, said Afar militia “massacred hundreds of civilians” on Saturday in Gedamaytu, also known as Gabraiisa, a town at the centre of long-running regional boundary dispute in north-east Ethiopia.

An internal UN report seen by Reuters said there was fighting in Gedamaytu with an unknown number of injured on both sides.

Ethiopia is trying to contain violence as regions and ethnic groups vie for power and resources. The worst violence, unrelated to the latest flare-up, is around Tigray, where conflict erupted in late 2020.

Ali Bedel said of the Gedamaytu incident: “Many are displaced and the town is almost completely looted.”

Two senior Somali government officials gave similar accounts, with one saying there were hundreds injured.

The internal UN security bulletin said there was “ongoing fighting” between Afaris and Somalis in Gedamaytu with an “unknown number of injuries” on both sides.

The Somali spokesperson said after the attack “angry youths” blocked a main road in the Afar area connecting Addis Ababa and the port in next door Djibouti.

“Government is trying to calm down the situation,” he said, without giving further details.

In Addis Ababa, thousands of new recruits to Ethiopia’s federal army paraded before leaving for training camps, after Tigrayan forces advanced into Amhara, between Tigray and the capital.

In a fresh sign of the humanitarian crisis in Ethiopia, the UN refugee agency UNHCR is concerned about 24 000 Eritrean refugees in two camps in Tigray reportedly cut off from aid and could run out of food and drinking water.

In addition, about 3000 Ethiopians from Amhara crossed into Sudan on Monday, Sudan’s state-run SUNA news agency reported, saying it was the highest number since fighting started in November.

SUNA said those who crossed were Kimant, a minority group in the Amhara region.

Kefale Mamo, a representative of the Kimant Committee, which campaigns for Kimant self-determination in a nation of multiple ethnic groups, told Reuters he received reports of fighting between Ethiopian forces and Kimant farmers.

He said many homes were destroyed and cars stolen but could not give casualty figures or details because communications were down.