More than 100 people were killed in the western Ethiopia region of Benishangul-Gumuz, in the country’s most recent ethnic massacre.
Witnesses and officials said at least 102 people were killed in the attack on Wednesday morning in the Metekel area.
The attack came a day after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited the region and spoke of the need to bring those responsible for the recent attacks to justice.
The attacks are separate from the deadly conflict in the Tigray region of northern Ethiopia, where Ethiopian forces and regional allied forces began fighting regional Tigray forces in early November.
Federal troops stationed in other regions of Africa’s second most populous nation were deployed to fight that conflict, heightening fears of a security vacuum.
Even before the Tigray war broke out last month, Abiy’s government had been struggling with increasing insecurity in many parts of the country. Violence between groups fighting over land and other resources forced hundreds of thousands of people to flee their homes after Abiy took office in 2018, according to UN estimates.
Ethnic tensions are a major challenge as Abiy tries to promote national unity in a country with more than 80 ethnic groups.
Belay Wajera, a farmer in the western city of Bulen, told Reuters he counted 82 bodies in a field near his home after the dawn attack on Wednesday. He and his family woke up to the sound of gunshots and ran out of the house while the men shouted “get them,” he said. His wife and five of his children were shot dead; he was shot in the buttocks, while four other children escaped and are now missing.
Another resident of the city, Hassen Yimama, said gunmen invaded the area around 6 am (0300 GMT). He told Reuters he counted 20 bodies in a different location. He grabbed his own gun, but the attackers shot him in the stomach.
A local doctor said he and his colleagues treated 38 wounded, most with gunshot wounds. Patients told him about relatives killed by knives and snipers that set fire to houses and shot people trying to escape, he said.
“We were not prepared for this and we are out of medicine,” a nurse at the same institution told Reuters, adding that a five-year-old child died during transport to the clinic.
The attack came a day after the prime minister and the military chief of staff, Birhanu Jula, and other senior federal officials, visited the region to call for calm after a series of deadly incidents among rival ethnic groups in recent months. The most recent previous attack in the area was on 14 November, when gunmen shot at a bus and killed 34 people.
“The enemies’ desire to divide Ethiopia into ethnic and religious lines still exists. That wish will remain unsatisfied, ”Abiy tweeted on Tuesday along with photos of his meetings that day in the city of Metekel. He said the residents expressed a desire for peace and that the feeling “overcomes any divisive agenda”.
The prime minister’s spokeswoman did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the attack on Wednesday.