Ethiopia’s government and residents say the country’s military recaptured several areas in the embattled Amhara region from local militia fighters as details of dozens of civilian deaths began to emerge from the region amid an internet shutdown.
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The military reclaimed control of six towns, including the regional capital, Bahir Dar, and Amhara’s second-largest town, Gondar, according to a government statement issued Wednesday night. The statement said a curfew was imposed in those areas but flights were set to resume.
The federal government declared a state of emergency in Amhara on Friday after regional authorities lost control and asked for help. The violence erupted over attempts by Ethiopia’s federal government to disband Amhara regional forces after the end of a two-year conflict in the neighboring Tigray region. Amhara forces and militia fought alongside Ethiopia’s military in that conflic
Residents told The Associated Press there was fierce fighting between military personnel and militia members in Bahir Dar and Gondar until Tuesday. Around 20 civilians killed during clashes with the military were buried Monday in the Lideta area of Bahir Dar, a resident said.
“They were unarmed youth,” he said. “They came out when the military came, with stones and sticks to fight, and the military was shooting them.”
Another resident of Bahir Dar said four civilians were killed in the crossfire. An aid worker said the fighting was “very bad, with many civilians killed.” Tanks were seen in the streets.
A Gondar resident said a grenade killed a teenage girl and injured another child Tuesday. In Lalibela, a resident said more than a dozen civilians died during a battle that involved artillery and lasted until Wednesday.
All of the residents spoke on the condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.
Bahir Dar, Gondar and Lalibela were calm Thursday morning, with government troops in control, the residents said. In several areas, roadblocks were getting cleared from streets.
Analysts fear the Amhara militia, known as Fano, may continue its struggle in the countryside using guerrilla tactics.
The United States, the U.K. and other countries have advised their citizens not to travel to the Amhara region.
The violence is a blow to Ethiopia’s recovery from the Tigray conflict, which killed hundreds of thousands of people and spilled into the Amhara region, causing widespread damage.
Human Rights Watch has said the new state of emergency rules in Amhara, which include a prohibition on protests and increased powers of arrest, undermine basic rights.
Ethiopia’s National Dialogue Commission has called for peace, while Ezema, a main opposition party, criticized the government’s handling of the crisis.