Ethiopia's human rights body has accused federal government forces of carrying out extra-judicial killings in the restive region of Amhara and mass arbitrary detentions.

Fighting erupted in Amhara in early July between the national army and local militia fighters known as Fano, after months of tensions.

The unrest prompted the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on August 4 to declare a six-month state of emergency which gave the authorities sweeping powers to arrest people, impose curfews and ban public gatherings.

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said in a statement late Friday it had been told by witnesses, residents and victims' families of "extra-judicial killings committed by government security forces in various parts of the region" which it described as "very concerning".

The state-backed but independent body said "many civilians" had been killed and injured and property destroyed in the fighting in cities, towns and some rural villages across Amhara.

It also said there had been widespread "arbitrary arrests" not only in Amhara but the neighbouring region of Oromia and the capital Addis Ababa.

An unknown number of civilians remain in detention, with those arrested usually accused of supporting the Amhara militias and/or hiding weapons, it added.

"EHRC calls for the necessary investigations to be made and accountability to be ensured on those entities that committed killings and arbitrary arrests on civilians."

The UN Rights Office said in late August that at least 183 people had been killed in the Amhara unrest since July.

The situation is impossible to verify on the ground, as the federal authorities restrict access to the region.

The Amhara clashes revived worries about the stability of Africa's second most populous country, months after a peace deal in November 2022 ended a two-year conflict in the neighbouring region of Tigray.

Amhara was also caught up in the Tigray war, with its regional forces fighting alongside federal government troops against Tigrayan rebels.

But in April, Abiy's government announced it was dismantling regional forces across the country, triggering protests by Amhara nationalists who said it would weaken their region.

A mosaic of more than 80 ethno-linguistic communities, Ethiopia has long struggled with territorial conflicts inside its borders.

The Amhara region is inhabited mostly by the Amhara people, the country's second most populous ethnic group.

 Source: AFP

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