(VOA) – Ethiopian soldiers have taken control of major highways, government buildings and the airport in the eastern Somali region after violence in the capital of Jigjiga left at least 29 people dead.
Fighting broke out Friday after an apparent rift between local authorities and the central Ethiopian government.
It is unclear exactly what led to the violence. A senior official with the region’s Somali People’s Democratic Party, Khadar Abdi Ismail, tells VOA the federal forces are responsible for the deaths.
He blames the violence on what he calls public anger over “the illegal entry of the dangerously armed troops” into the city. Ismail says non-Somali ethnic communities were targeted, shops looted, buildings burned and churches destroyed.
Churches being burnt by local government forces in Eastern Ethiopia, in Jijiga town. The forces oppose the new PM and his inclusive policy. pic.twitter.com/caj0VTlbE0
— Yoseph Haile (@yhaile001) August 5, 2018
Ethiopia’s military has vowed to take the “necessary measures … to restore order in the Ethiopian Somali regional state.”
The government recently accused regional officials of carrying out human rights abuses
The U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia is urging Americans in the region to shelter in place and pay attention to local news reports for updates on the situation.
There are several thousand regional paramilitary fighters known as the Liyu police, a force created in 2007 primarily to quell the rebellion of the Ogaden National Liberation Front. Liyu police have been accused of committing brutality and torture against supporters of ONLF.
#UPDATE: An uneasy calm has resturned to the city of #Jijiga, there are military activists but they have been informed “not to engage with the region’s local police” to avoid clashes- according to multiple sources. #Ethiopia pic.twitter.com/hU8rPZROnE
— Mowliid Haji Abdi (@MowliidHaji) August 5, 2018
BBC Amharic has reported that Somali Region President Abdi Iley has resigned.
Abdi Ahmed Mohammed has been appointed at the news Somali Region President
PM Abiy Ahmed’s chief of staff tweeted:
HE PM Abiy Ahmed deplores the violence and destruction of property in Jigjiga and Dire Dawa. He expresses his condolences for the tragic loss of lives both in Dire Dawa and Jigjiga. These tragedies and cycle of violence must end. #Ethiopia.
— Fitsum Arega (@fitsumaregaa) August 6, 2018
Calm returns to Jijiga
— AddisInsight (@addisinsight) August 6, 2018
#Ethiopia -the letest on situation in Somali region.
Federal troops have taken over security in #Jijiga, deadly riots have for the time been stopped, political measures are taken to restructure the party, in the wider region unrest is ongoing, PM Abiy faces first major setback. https://t.co/PRer6RBvXH
— Kostas Lanaras (@jokraniareflex1) August 6, 2018