July 25 (OPride) –– Unidentified militiamen ambushed two villages near Moyale town in Ethiopia leaving scores dead and several others wounded, eyewitnesses and reports said.
Fighting erupted when concerned villagers approached a heavily armed forces taking positions outside Camuq and Malab villages earlier this week, eyewitnesses said. "They [the militia] refused to identify themselves and told the villagers they shouldn't be concerned," said Kokolfa Dafarsha in a phone interview from New York. "When the villagers warned that they would call in the Ethiopian military from the nearby military outpost, Shawa Bar, the armed men began firing at the villagers."
Both sides sustained heavy losses, Dafarsha added citing reports from the ground. Fighting eventually expanded to the town of Moyale on Thursday where a warehouse and police station was reportedly burned down. heavy fighting that took place over three days and continued until Friday, VOA journalist Henok Fente said on Twitter.
Phone calls to Moyale did not go through. Citing eyewitness accounts, Dafarsha said, "Ethiopian military and police conspicuously watched the townsfolk attempt to stop the invasion." Other sources claim that the military has brought the conflict under control by noon on Friday. regional government security spokesman confirmed property damage and
The UN office in Addis Ababa said at least 20 died in the tribal conflict between Garri and Borana tribes. Fente confirmed the death toll as well as the wounding of more than 30 people."I saw four dead bodies, I know more than 20 of those wounded and dead," one eyewitness told Fente.
According to Henok, the fighters, who carried heavy weaponry, spoke the Somali language and were not from the Garri tribe. He said that security remains a major issue for residents of surrounding areas who have witnessed the ensuing conflict. Another witness reported that the fighting ensued in three villages outside of Moyale before spreading into the border town.
Conflicts over water and grazing land with neighboring Gari tribe and Somali groups have been endemic to the area. It is not immediately clear which group initiated, and why the current skirmish started .
Moyale is a border town between Kenya and Ethiopia, which has seen numerous conflicts over the years. In the past, in its pursuit of Oromo Liberation Front rebels, a group that fights for greater autonomy for the Oromo people, the Ethiopian government has harshly cracked down on the people of Borana.
This is a breaking news update. Check back soon for more.