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BBC - Drone Attack in North Shewa Amhara Region Kills Over 30 People According to Eyewitnesses

Disclaimer: This is an English translation of an Amharic report taken from BBC Amharic and is intended solely for information purposes.

BBC - Drone attack in North Shewa Amhara Region kills over 30 people according to eyewitnesses

February 21, 2024

On Monday, February 19, 2024 (Yekatit 11, 2016 EC) a drone attack on an ISUZU freight vehicle killed a large number of people in Mojana Wedera Woreda of North Shewa Zone in Amhara Region, according to eyewitnesses and local residents that spoke to BBC.

The attack took place on a vehicle which set out from a small town called Sasit not far from the woreda’s capital Sela Dingaye town, and the attack took place in an area called Fela Megentiya (Gawna Mewreja) according to four sources that spoke to BBC.

BBC’s sources who opted for anonymity for their safety said there were more than 50 travelers on the vehicle.

According to one eyewitness who spoke to BBC, the attack took place when the vehicle was dropping off travelers and over 16 relatives who departed for a baptism were killed.

More than 16 people including relatives from my father’s side and my mother’s side were all killed…” adding the number of deceased victims could be “over 30”.

Local residents said the attack lasted between 11 am in the morning up to noon and described the incident as a “massacre”.

Another resident whose aunt and uncle were among the deceased said “an entire family” was killed in the attack.

Sources said the number dead was “over 30” and that the “baptized infant” who was being held by its grandparent managed to survive the incident without injury.

This was also confirmed by another relative of the deceased that spoke to BBC.

The entire family was killed including the mother and father but “he (the infant) was spared by God, he was untouched.”

A religious man who recites the identities of some of the people killed in the attack said he rushed to the scene of the attack when he heard cries and black smoke.

They said “during funerals and baptisms relatives travel using various vehicles” and that local residents were in the truck as is the trend and said the vehicle belonged to family members of the child that was being baptized.

They told BBC when they reached the area they found dead bodies of children up to elderly people.

Another witness who arrived immediately to the site of the attack described it as an “extreme hazard”. They also added that a large number of people were injured.

The religious father said the number injured could “reach over 20” and said the injured were taken to Gawna and Sasit health stations.

One health professional in Gawna Health Station who chose to remain anonymous told BBC that 18 injured people were taken to a health station for medical treatment. The professional explained that three injured people including the driver immediately lost their lives.

They said, “they were in dire conditions when they came to us, the driver included. We did everything in our capacity to help. There were children, there was the driver. They lost their lives immediately.”

The professional said of the more than 15 injured persons four were sent to Debre Birhan for referral care while the remaining were being treated in the health center.

Local residents said there was no fighting between government forces and Fano militants in the area where the attack took place.

Despite this, in the days prior to the attack government forces entered Sela Dingaye located 72-km from Debre Birhan city, administrative capital of North Shewa Zone.

In the town on Monday, “heavy fighting” took place between the two sides according to sources who said the Fano militants withdrew into the surrounding rural areas. According to the resident the attack targeted an area located 23-km from where the fighting took place.

The religious father who said there was no fighting in the area said “it was a sudden attack” and that up until 2:30 pm bodies of the victims killed in the attack were retrieved however they were difficult to identify.

It was difficult to pick up bodies of the killed victims due to the degree of the damage and they were eventually picked up “using blankets.”

People who traveled to the site of the attack afterwards feared “we may be attacked too” according to residents.

One resident said “the drone was moving around” and added, “it was very difficult to retrieve the bodies, for over one hour everyone was scattered and after the drone left was it possible to pick them up. (I had heard) it was difficult to pick up the injured quickly too.”

On Monday, February 19 (Yekatit 11) and the following day on Tuesday, the killed victims were buried in Qura Sera Maryam, Tekle Haymanot, and Washa Maryam churches.

The majority of the victims in the attack were related so the mourning was profound according to one relative of the victims who said there was now an atmosphere of fear in the area.

...the victims’ sister has lost control of herself up until now. It is very difficult to manage the grief. Because nothing like this has been seen before in our area it has caused shock among the residents. At this time the army is moving in the area. The people are not leaving their homes.”

BBC’s efforts to contact the local administration for information were not successful and also learned that the local woreda administrators had long left the area after Fano took control for many months.

The United Nations Human Rights Commission previously reported it was concerned over attacks using unmanned airplanes (drones) in the context of the conflict in Amhara Region.

A few months ago, the commission issued a statement regarding drone attacks in Amhara Region raising great concern over drone attacks which have caused casualties among residents of the Amhara Region.

For example in mid Tikimit (late October 2024), government forces perpetrated a drone attack on the primary school in Wadera Woreda of North Shewa killing seven people including three teachers.

It reported similarly that towards the end of the month of Tikimit (October 12, 2023 - November 10, 2023) a drone attack on an autobus station in Waber town in East Gojjam Zone killed over 13 people waiting for a bus.

Since the end of last year and the previous six months armed fighting has continued between government forces and Fano militants and as a result, residents have experienced casualties as has been repeatedly reported.

Various human rights organizations continue to express concern over extrajudicial killings of civilians 

Despite calls for a peaceful resolution to the conflict in response to fighting between Fano militants and government forces, abuses have continued.


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