The United Nations said Friday that nearly 50 civilians have been killed in clashes and attacks in Ethiopia’s Amhara region over the past month.
Ethiopia’s second most populous region has been wracked by unrest for months, with a number of clashes between the Ethiopian military and ethnic Amhara militia known as Fano in recent weeks.
“It is imperative that all parties refrain from unlawful attacks and take all necessary measures to protect civilians,” Seif Magango, a spokesperson for the U.N. human rights office, said in a statement.
He voiced particular concern at “the devastating impact of drone strikes and other violence on the population in the Amhara region” amid the ongoing clashes.
At least 47 people had been killed in five different attacks since early October, he said.
“They were all civilians,” he told AFP.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken voiced alarm about the violence in a telephone call Friday with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Blinken “stressed the importance of dialogue and negotiation to resolve conflict,” State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said.
He separately praised Abiy for allowing reforms to monitoring that persuaded the United States to resume food assistance across Ethiopia, which is also recovering from a bloody two-year war in the Tigray region.
The U.S. Agency for International Development had halted the aid in June, alleging a systematic campaign to divert food.
Last week, the Ethiopian army regained control of Lalibela — a UNESCO World Heritage site renowned for its centuries-old rock churches – after the regional Fano militia had overrun the historic town a day earlier.
There has been no official casualty toll from fighting on Nov. 8, but a church deacon said he had attended the funerals the next day of 16 police officers killed in the clashes. The deacon added that he knew of one civilian who had died and a woman who had been injured.
Magango could not provide a toll from those clashes but said a drone attack that hit a bus station in Waber on Nov. 9 killed 13 people waiting to board a bus.
“Fano militias were reportedly active in the area and attacking (military) camps … when the drone struck,” he said.
“Such attacks amount to arbitrary deprivation of life under international human rights law.”
Three days earlier, a drone allegedly launched by government forces struck a primary school in Wadera district, killing seven people, including three teachers, he said.
On Nov. 4, six people were killed and 14 injured when government forces shelled residential areas in the Central Gondar Zone, he said.
“Many of the victims were killed in their homes.”
Magango said 21 others, including government and ruling party officials, were killed by Fano militia in separate attacks in the region on Oct. 9 and Oct. 28.
Although Fano fought alongside federal troops in the two-year war in neighboring Tigray region, tensions boiled over after Addis Ababa announced in April that it was dismantling regional forces across Ethiopia.
The Ethiopian government imposed a state of emergency in August after fighting broke out in Amhara, raising new concerns about the stability of Africa’s second most populous country.