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Ethiopia arrests five officials in Benishangul-Gumuz, PM deploys forces to region

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Ethiopia has arrested five senior local officials in connection with security issues in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, a day after gunmen killed more than 100 people in the area, state-run Ethiopian News Agency reported on Thursday.

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Meanwhile, Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said he had deployed forces to the western Benishangul-Gumuz region, a day after the killings in the area, which has seen regular ethnic violence.

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On Wednesday, the state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said gunmen had killed over 100 people in a dawn attack in the village of Bekoji in Bulen county in the Metekel zone, an area where numerous ethnic groups live.

“The massacre of civilians in Benishangul-Gumuz region is very tragic,” Abiy said on Twitter. “The government, to solve the root causes of the problem, has deployed a necessary force.”

Africa’s second-most populous nation has been wrestling with outbreaks of deadly violence since Abiy took office in 2018 and accelerated democratic and economic reforms that have loosened the state’s iron grip on regional rivalries.

Residents on Wednesday described to Reuters seeing dozens of dead bodies and being chased by unknown gunmen shooting at locals.

Abiy and senior officials had visited the region on Tuesday to call for calm after multiple deadly attacks in recent months, such as a November 14 assault in which gunmen targeted a bus and killed 34 people.

In a separate part of the country, Ethiopia’s military has been fighting rebels in the northern Tigray region for more than six weeks in a conflict that has displaced close to 950,000 people. The deployment of federal troops there has led to fears of a security vacuum in other restive regions.