More than 50 civilians were killed in attacks in Ethiopia last month, a human rights body said Wednesday, barely two weeks after talks between the government and a rebel group from the country's most populous region ended without agreement.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission — an independent, state-affiliated body — said that fighters from the Oromo Liberation Army, or OLA, killed 17 people and burned down villages in Benishangul-Gumuz, which borders the Oromia region.
Classified as a "terrorist organization" by Addis Ababa, the OLA has been fighting the government since 2018 after splitting from the Oromo Liberation Front when it renounced armed struggle.
The human rights commission said another 30 people were killed in Oromia's Arsi zone in a string of attacks by unidentified assailants, with the victims including multiple members of the same family.
"It's now known that the attackers killed the victims by lining them up after taking them out of their home, while some others were killed inside their home," the human rights commission said in its report.
"Among the deceased are an infant baby, pregnant women and an 80-year-old elderly person. ... An unknown number of people who sustained injuries are currently receiving medical treatment," the commission said.
"In addition, nine members of the Hamo-Tokuma diocese of Lutheran church located in ... Qellem Wollega zone, Oromia region were killed by as of yet unidentified attackers on November 25," it said.
All the attacks took place between November 23 and 29, after talks in Tanzania to put an end to five years of insurrection ended November 21, with each side blaming the other for the breakdown.
On Saturday, local authorities in Oromia accused the OLA of carrying out "horrendous and brutal" attacks against "many civilians" in the Arsi zone, without giving further details about when those assaults occurred.
The OLA's strength, estimated at a few thousand men in 2018, has increased in recent years, although observers believe it is insufficiently organized or well-armed to pose a real threat to the government.
The Oromo ethnic group accounts for about a third of the 120 million inhabitants of Africa's second-most populous country.
The OLA has been accused by the government of orchestrating massacres, something the rebels deny. The authorities in turn are accused of waging an indiscriminate crackdown that has fueled Oromo resentment.