ADDIS ABABA, Oct 30 (Reuters) – Dozens of civilians have been killed this month by drone strikes and house-to-house searches in Ethiopia’s Amhara region, where authorities have touted security gains since conflict erupted in July, a state-appointed human rights commission said on Monday.
The fighting between state forces and local militiamen, who accuse the federal government of marginalising the region, became Ethiopia’s biggest security crisis since the end of a two-year civil war in the neighbouring Tigray region a year ago.
At least 183 people were killed in the first month of the conflict, the United Nations said in late August. But with internet connections down across the region, it has been difficult to get a clear picture of the situation.
In a new report, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) documented several incidents in which civilians were killed this month.
In one, 12 civilians, including religious students, were killed on Oct. 10 during house-to-house searches by government forces in the town of Adet, the report said.
A week later, a 19-month-old child was among the victims of a drone strike in the town of Berehet Woreda, while another drone strike on Oct. 19 killed eight civilians in Debre Markos, it said.
The report alleges that government forces committed extrajudicial killings against civilians arrested on the streets or in house-to-house searches after accusing them of providing information or weapons to the militiamen.
Spokespeople for the Ethiopian government, the army and Amhara’s regional administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment. The government has not publicly commented on allegations its forces have committed abuses in Amhara.
After being forced in the early days of the conflict from major cities and towns, Ethiopian forces were able to move back in and push the militiamen into the countryside.
Earlier this month, Amhara’s regional administration said security had improved, and it eased curfews imposed after the conflict broke out.
Amhara militiamen fought alongside the army during the war in Tigray. Relations between the two sides have since soured, particularly after the federal government moved in April to integrate security forces operated by each region into the police and army.