At least 100 civilians killed in volatile area claimed by both Somali and Afar regions, officials say, highlighting woes facing PM Abiy Ahmed that extend well beyond ongoing conflict in Tigray region.

Ethiopia is divided into several semi-autonomous federal regions, largely carved out along ethnic lines, and land and political disputes between the states often spark violence.
Ethiopia is divided into several semi-autonomous federal regions, largely carved out along ethnic lines, and land and political disputes between the states often spark violence. (TRTWorld)

Border clashes between Ethiopia's Afar and Somali regions have killed at least 100 people, a regional official said, the latest outbreak of violence ahead of national elections in June.

Around 100 civilians were killed since clashes broke out on Friday and continued through Tuesday, Ahmed Humed, deputy police commissioner for the Afar region, told Reuters news agency by phone. 

He blamed the violence on an attack by Somali regional forces.

Ali Bedel, a spokesman for the Somali region, said 25 people had been killed on Friday and an "unknown number of civilians" died in a subsequent attack by the same forces on Tuesday. 

He did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Humed's statement. 

READ MORE: Did the Somali army send teenagers to fight in the Tigray war?

Herders gunned down

Ahmed Kaloyte of the Afar region told AFP news agency that Somali special police and militias raided an area known as Haruka, "indiscriminately firing on locals and killing more than 30 Afar civilian pastoralists" and injuring at least 50 more.

"The local community then beat back the attackers and caught some of them red-handed," temporarily restoring order, he said.

On Tuesday morning, though, Somali special forces returned with truck-mounted firearms and rocket-propelled grenades to Haruka and two nearby areas, "killing an unknown number of civilians including women and children in their sleep," he said.

But Abdo Heloe, another spokesman for Somali region, said the unrest was instigated by Afar security forces.

"The latest upsurge in violence started Friday when Afar special police officers attacked civilian Somali pastoralists for unknown reasons," Abdo told AFP.

"So far more than 25 civilians have been killed and more than 30 injured in the unprovoked attack. The attack is still continuing."

He said federal officials "haven't taken any measures" to defuse the situation so far.

READ MORE: 'There’s a genocide taking place here against Somali Muslims'

Pressure piles on PM Abiy

Abiy's government is also under pressure to address reports of violence between the country's two largest ethnic groups, the Oromos and the Amharas.

Ethiopia is divided into 10 semi-autonomous federal regions, largely carved out along ethnic lines, and land and political disputes between the states often spark violence.

On Tuesday the communications office of the Jile-Temuga area in Amhara region –– which is populated by Oromos –– said some 68 people perished and 114 were injured in a "recent attack", though it did not provide details of when the violence occurred.

"In addition, more than 40,000 farmers have been displaced from their homes and properties and are currently living in three temporary shelters," the office said in a statement posted to its Facebook page.

Federal security officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Tuesday.

Abiy, the country's first Oromo leader, took power in 2018 after several years of anti-government protests.

His tenure has been marred by persistent, grisly violence along ethnic lines.

READ MORE: Ethiopia must let Somalia determine its own fate

Source: AFP