By Addis Standard Staff
Addis Ababa – Residents told Addis Standard that at least 68 people were killed in a drone strike in Ofu Bekke village, Chobi district, about 120 km northwest of the capital Addis Abeba in the West Shewa zone of Oromia regional state. The attack took place on Sunday 23 October in the district at a place called Kale, further afield, approximately about 145 km from Addis Abeba.
A resident of the area, who did not want to be named for security reasons, told Addis Standard that several civilians were killed in a sudden drone strike in Kale area around 11:00 am local on Sunday. “Even though I couldn’t mention the exact figure, many people have died. Many are injured. Many of our district residents died,” he said.
Kebede [name changed for security reasons], another resident of Chobi district, confirmed the attack to Addis Standard adding that at least 68 people were confirmed dead and over 100 people are wounded as of Monday morning in Sunday’s drone strike.
“As of Monday morning, 68 bodies have been found. The search continued as many people fled to the forest at the time of the attack. The victims are from an elderly father of 10 children upto a nursing mother with her child who were killed in the attack. There are also many wounded. Even the injured are not receiving treatment as health services have been blocked in our area due to security problems,” Kebede said.
“Drone strikes have been increasing in our area since lately,” said Kebede, a resident of Chobi district, adding that even funerals are held nightly as there is fear of attacks. He said the security situation in the region remained threatening after the attack.
There has been increasing presence of rebel group Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), in several districts of West Shoa zone of the Oromia region, and civilians are most often caught in the cross hairs as government forces carry out attacks against the group, which Ethiopian parliament labelled as terrorist group along side TPLF, a party currently ruling the Tigray Region and also fighting with government forces in Northern part of the country.
International spokesman of Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), Odaa Tarbii, said in an October 24 post on his Twitter account that there had been six drone strikes “targeting civilians” and “killing hundreds of people” in the Oromia region since October 20. According to Odaa Tarbii, “150 people have been confirmed dead” in attacks in Meta Welkitie and Chobi districts of West Shawa zone alone.
Meanwhile, after Sunday’s attack in the district, another airstrike “targeting a school” in Chobi district on Monday morning killed several students, according to Odaa Tarbii’s subsequent tweet published on Tuesday, October 25, with footage showing dead bodies including students who wore school uniforms falling to the ground. However, he did not disclose the number of students who died.
The opposition party Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) said in a statement on October 24 that air strikes were carried out in many parts of Oromia region since 20 October. OLF said that on October 20, civilians were killed and many others wounded in an air strike in Minare town, Meta Welkitie district of West Shawa zone.
In addition, the statement said, several civilians were killed and injured, and also houses and properties of residents were destroyed in many places in a continuous aerial attack that took place on October 22 and 23 in Fentale district of East Shawa, Meta Welkitie and Gindeberet districts of West Shawa and Nunu Kimba district of East Wallega. However, “it was difficult to determine the number of people killed from all places,” the statement said.
“The continuous brutal actions of the ruling party against the civilians must stop,” OLF said, urging the United Nations (UN) and the international community “to break the silence on atrocities in Oromia and save the lives of innocent civilians.”
Corroborating the OLF statement, Oromo Federalist Congress (OFC) issued a statement on October 24 saying that in addition to the attacks in Cobi district, drone strikes were also carried out in places such as Kare Heto village in Meta Walkitie district, Wama Agalo district of East Wallega zone, and Fentalle district of East Shawa zone, killing dozen civilians.
“The government has failed to fulfill its duty to protect the peace of the people and has used drones and warplanes together with its forces to kill civilians,” OFC said,urging the United Nations immediately discuss the matter and direct that the killings be investigated by independent bodies and that the forces involved in these human rights violations be held accountable.
Attempts by Addis Standard to reach the heads of the Oromia and West Shawa security bureaus for comment were unsuccessful. AS
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