Ethiopia’s federal security forces killed at least 45 civilians in a massacre in Amhara state in late January, the independent state-affiliated Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said on Tuesday.
A statement said the EHRC had confirmed “the identity of at least 45 civilians who were extrajudicially killed by government security forces for allegedly ‘supporting [ethnic Amhara armed group] Fano’.”
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“However, it can be assumed that the number of victims is even higher,” it said.
The killings in the Amhara town of Merawi follow months of clashes last year between Ethiopia’s military and Fano, a “self defence” organisation with no publicly known command structure that draws volunteers from the local population.
The fighting prompted the federal government to impose a state of emergency in August that politicians extended by four months, this month.
There has also been a rise in deadly drone activity in the region.
Tewodrose Tirfe, chairman of the United States-based advocacy group Amhara Association of America, told Al Jazeera in December that his organisation has accumulated data on about 70 drone strikes that caused civilian casualties in the Amhara region since May.
The Ethiopian army is the only operator of armed drones in the Horn of Africa country,
Last week, the United States said it was deeply concerned by reports of “targeted civilian killings” in Merawi and called for an independent investigation.
The Amhara violence is Ethiopia’s most serious crisis since a peace agreement was signed in November 2022 to end a two-year conflict in the neighbouring region of Tigray.
Amhara regional forces including Fano fought alongside federal troops against Tigrayan rebels but ties frayed in April last year when Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government decided to dismantle state paramilitaries across the country.
Amhara nationalists said it would weaken their region and protested against the move.
In September, the EHRC accused federal government forces of carrying out extrajudicial killings in Amhara, and mass arbitrary detentions in the region and elsewhere.