Ethiopia conflict: Official says hundreds of civilians killed by Afar militia

Wednesday July 28 2021
Afar Special Forces fighter

An Afar Special Forces fighter is pictured in Bisober, Tigray region, Ethiopia on December 9, 2020. PHOTO | AFP


Officials in Ethiopia's Somali region on Tuesday said hundreds of civilians were killed after militia forces from the neighbouring Afar region carried out attacks there.

A large number of Afar regional militia forces on Saturday crossed the border to Somali and carried out attacks, sparking fierce fighting between the two sides.

It's not yet clear why the Afar militia has carried out the unexpected attacks but the two regions have long-standing territorial disputes.

The Somali regional government's spokesperson, Ali Bedel, confirmed attacks were carried out in the Sitti zone of Gedamaytu and Gabraiisa areas.

Ali told Reuters that an armed militia from the Afar region carried out a "massacre" on Saturday and as a result hundreds of civilians had been killed.

He did not specify the number of casualties in the attacks.


However, a reliable source from the region told Nation.Africa that more than 300 people were killed over the past three days.

The source added that Afar forces inflicted heavy infrastructural damages and looted from homes.

Key routes blocked

It is a critical time as the Somali forces deployed to the neighbouring Amhara region a few days ago are fighting the Tigray People’s Liberation Front alongside Amhara militia, the Ethiopia National Defence Force and allied forces recently deployed from all regional States.

Angered by this development, Somali protesters retaliated Sunday, blocking the main highway that links Djibouti with Ethiopia.

The Ethiopian-Djibouti railway is also said to have been blocked on Tuesday after protesters damaged part of it.

Both routes run across the Afar region bordering Djibouti.

On social media, some news outlets have shared photographs of long lines of trucks stuck at the major highway.

There has been no official reaction from Addis Ababa but the blockade means landlocked Ethiopia currently lacks a route to sea.

With a population of over 115 million people, Ethiopia relies on Djibouti for roughly 95 percent of its import and export trade.

Some sources said that protesters have vowed to maintain the blockade until the Ethiopian government arrests the attackers and looted properties are returned.

If the blocking of the corridors, both seen as lifeline to Ethiopia's economy, continues, the horn of Africa nation could soon face severe shortages of fuel and other key commodities.