The rebel group, the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA), has reportedly massacred more than 200 civilians in Ethiopia's Oromia region. Initial reports claimed that most of those who were killed were part of the Amhara ethnic group.
OLA forces reportedly attacked the town of Gimbi as the group was fighting against government forces. The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said the group came into the town and slaughtered everyone who wasn't able to escape. They also reportedly destroyed the entire village.
All of the charges have been refuted by the OLA, which last year allied with Tigrayan rebel troops against Ethiopia's federal government in the country's civil war. OLA spokesman Odaa Tarbii said Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government and its own fleeing forces were to blame for the massacre.
The Ethiopian government has branded the rebel group as a terrorist organization, and it is routinely accused of assaulting civilians and ethnic Amharas. The latest attack is one of the country's deadliest since war erupted in Ethiopia's northern Tigray area in 2020 after Abiy's administration and its Amhara region allies attempted to quell a rebellion by the Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF).
Prior to Abiy's ascension to power in 2018, the TPLF ruled Ethiopia's government. Human rights organizations said both sides had committed atrocities in the subsequent civil war, which threatened to break the ethnically complex country. There is no evidence that the TPLF was engaged in the latest attack.
The attack occurred days after intense combat broke out in the area between government security forces and the OLA. The attack began when members of the OLA sought to travel through the village but were denied entry by local people and some armed citizens.
A local who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation claimed he witnessed OLA militants going down a key road before dispersing to adjacent communities. He said that government personnel spotted in Tole earlier in the week had departed the region days before the incident.
Ethiopia is a 110 million-strong ethnically and religiously diverse nation with people speaking a variety of languages. The Oromo and Amhara ethnic groups account for more than 60% of the country's population. The Tigrayans make up around 7% of the population.
Last week, Abiy said that the Ethiopian government had constituted a committee to engage with Tigrayan troops. The development is a huge step forward in the two parties' peace talks. Abiy denounced the latest attack, stating that the killing of innocent civilians is "unacceptable."