The death toll from a Wednesday attack in the western Benishangul-Gumuz region of Ethiopia has risen to 207 people, a volunteer from the country’s Red Cross said.
“Yesterday we buried 207 people who are the victims and 15 more from the attackers,” volunteer Melese Mesfin told Reuters news agency on Friday.
The attack occurred in the village of Bekoji in Bulen county in the Metekel zone. The state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission initially estimated at least 100 people had been killed.
Meanwhile, nearly 40,000 people have fled their homes due to the fighting, Bulen county spokesman Kassahun Addisu said.
Wednesday’s attack by unidentified gunmen was the latest deadly assault in an area bedevilled by ethnic violence.
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called the attack a “massacre” and deployed federal troops there the next day. The military killed 42 armed men accused of attacking the village.
Since September, there have been waves of violence against the members of the Amhara, Shinasha, Oromo and Agew communities in the region.
Tensions between Ethiopia’s ethnic groups have increased under Abiy, who has been in power since 2018.
Elections due next June have further inflamed rivalries over land, power and resources.
In a separate part of the country, Ethiopia’s military has been fighting rebels in the northern Tigray region for more than six weeks in a conflict that has displaced close to 950,000 people.
The deployment of federal troops there has raised fears of a security vacuum in other restive regions.
Ethiopia is also experiencing unrest in the Oromia region and faces long-running security threats from Somali fighters along its porous eastern border.
The European Union’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, said in a statement on behalf of the bloc that reports of ethnic violence and other allegations of human rights violations should be investigated independently.
The EU is closely following the crisis in Ethiopia and is concerned about the humanitarian situation, added Borrell, describing reports of the continued involvement of non-Ethiopian actors as worrying.