Ethiopia rebels say government can't be 'trusted' to conduct massacre probe

Ethiopia rebels say government can't be 'trusted' to conduct massacre probe
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Ethiopian rebel groups said the government 'cannot be trusted to hold an impartial investigation' following a massacre in the western Oromia region last week.
Ethiopia's federal government and the regional authorities in Oromia have blamed rebel group the OLA for the attacks [source: Getty]

An Ethiopian rebel group called on Friday for an independent probe into mass killings in the west of the country, saying the government could not be trusted to carry out an impartial investigation.

UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet on Thursday urged the Ethiopian authorities to conduct "prompt, impartial and thorough" investigations into attacks last weekend in the Oromia region that have reportedly claimed the lives of hundreds of people, mostly ethnic Amhara.

"The Ethiopian authorities cannot be trusted to hold an impartial investigation," Odaa Tarbii, spokesman for the rebel Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), said on Twitter.

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"There are several atrocities that have warranted investigations in the last four years yet to this day we have heard nothing. What are needed are independent investigations by a third party," he added.

The federal government and the regional authorities in Oromia have blamed the OLA, which is labelled a terrorist group by Addis Ababa, for the massacres in the village of Tole.

But the rebel group, which is allied with the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) in its war against federal forces in northern Ethiopia, has blamed a pro-government militia in the Oromia region.

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Survivors of the Tole attack told AFP that hundreds of people belonging to the Amhara ethnic group were killed by rebels, with bodies still lying on the streets after hours of violence.

Bachelet said on Thursday her staff had spoken with witnesses to the June 18 killing spree who said armed individuals descended on Tole and began shooting randomly, leaving hundreds dead.

Most of the victims were women and children, a UN statement said, adding that at least 2,000 other people had been forced to flee their homes.

No official toll is available.

The US-based Amhara Association of America said in a report it had identified 282 victims, but added that the toll could be much higher.

The oldest known victim, it said, was a 100-year-old man, and the youngest a one-month-old baby.

Its figures could not be independently verified.

On Thursday, the country's parliament instructed the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, a state-affiliated independent body, to investigate the "inhumane atrocity" it was carried out by the OLA in Oromia, as well as the neighbouring region of Gambella.

The EHRC last week said that security forces had summarily executed residents in the regional capital Gambella, suspecting them of collaborating with OLA rebels who had earlier attacked the southwestern city.