Disclaimer: This is an English translation of an Amharic report taken from BBC Amharic and is intended solely for information purposes.
BBC Amharic - A drone attack near a school in Merhabete Woreda killed two people
Monday, January 15, 2024 (Tir 6, 2016 EC)
A drone attack which was carried out near a school in Merhabete Woreda of Amhara Region killed two people and at least four people were injured according to residents and the school administration which spoke to BBC.
Last week on Friday, January 12, 2024 (Tir 3, 2016 EC), a drone attack was carried out near Alem town of Merhabete Woreda of North Shewa Zone in Amhara Region according to three residents and schools.
That day at around 1 pm, the drone attack struck the area near the entrance of Arbegnoch General Secondary School according to the school’s principal Ato Ashagrie Abebe who spoke to BBC.
The principal added following the drone attack near the end of last week, the school’s students became afraid and did not return to school on Monday.
The school which teaches from the ninth grade to the twelfth had accepted more than 2,600 students for the school year according to the principal.
The principal and two town residents that spoke to BBC explained that the attack was carried out near the school in an area (park) called “Karel” where Fano militants were said to be stationed.
The school’s principal told BBC the area located 20-m from the school was used by Fano forces for “rations and logistics”.
The principal said, “there is a cross-country road located between the school and the park. The attack was carried out with intention to take action against them. The action was aimed at the students as well.”
According to residents, this drone attack killed two Fano members and injured at least four civilians who were in the area. At the time of the attack, classes were underway at the school according to the head teacher Ato Ashagrie, and they experienced “undue” shock.
The principal said, “as some students tried to jump the fence to escape their hands were cut by the metal. They were forced to escape believing the attack would be repeated on the front side.” This is what the students did in order to escape the school.
One teacher from the school on their end brought up a similar thought,”when the drone attack was carried out, the smoke and explosion disturbed the students causing some to break the windows and attempt to escape during which they suffered injuries, falls and fractures.”
Following the drone attack near the end of the week on a school day, the school closed and still had not started today according to the principal and another teacher. The principal Ato Ashagrie, "I entered the school today. However not even a single student showed up. Then I too left.” He indicated how the students were under distress.
“When an attack like this is carried out near a school it causes schooling to be disrupted. Now we are uncertain which students will return so we can resume teaching.” As said by Ato Ashagrie who expressed his fear for the impact of the attack on learning and teaching.
The United Nations Human Rights Office in November issued a statement stating that drone attacks have been killing civilians in fighting between Fano militants and government forces in Amhara Region.
The statement had cited a drone attack on a primary school in Wadera Woreda of North Shewa in the region which killed seven people including three teachers.
This is not the first drone attack in Alem town of Merhabete Woreda where there is alleged Fano militant activity. In early December an attack on a camp called “Gemshu” left two people killed as recalled by one town resident. In the attack a “large number of people” were harmed according to residents who cited “unarmed civilians” were among the victims.
BBC’s efforts to contact ENDF and regional government officials for comment on the reporter attack on Alem town on Friday were unsuccessful. Despite this, the Chief of General Staff Field Marshal Birhanu Jula in his interview on state-affiliated media FANA in the month of December denied that unarmed civilians were killed.
The ENDF carried out the drone attack on Fano fighters “gathered as a target” according to Chief of General Staff Berhanu Jula who said “drones aren't dropped on people, they aren't fired on. There is no firing on villages either. When a gathering of enemies is detected however there is firing.”
In fighting between government forces and Fano fighters in the region which lasted months many people have been killed including in extrajudicial killings and various other human rights violations as reported by the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and others.
After the government’s decision to dismantle and reform the regional special forces, and disarm other militants, since the month of April (2023) of last year tensions in Amhara Region have worsened until it became a full conflict during the month of July (2023).
Though at various times the government has stated various areas in the region had returned to peaceful activities, fighting has continued at various parts of the region.
Various national and international institutions have called on both parties to enter dialogue and negotiations however there are no clear indications that any such processes have begun.