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BBC Amharic - Militants Abducted Over 100 Students in the Gerib Guracha Area

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

BBC Amharic - Militants Abducted Over 100 Students in the Gerib Guracha Area

July 5, 2024

More than one hundred university students were abducted by militants in Oromia Region as they were traveling by autobus from Amhara Region to the capital city of Addis Ababa city.

The students who were primarily from Debark University were abducted by militants in the Gerib Guracha area of North Shewa Zone in Oromia Region according to eyewitnesses and family members of the abductees who spoke to BBC.

The mass abduction was carried out 155 km north of Addis Ababa, with some students managing to escape and others being released.

The students had come from Debark town in North Gonder Zone and from Bahir Dar city in Amhara Region, and they were traveling using three “tata” public autobuses when they were abducted on Wednesday, July 3, 2024 (Sene 26, 2016 EC) by “Shene” militants.

Two autobuses came from Debark University, and the other came from Bahir Dar city (bus station) and spent the night in Dejen before traveling towards Addis Ababa when the abduction took place in a “small village” located between Goha Tsion and Tulu Milki according to two students who spoke to BBC after escaping the abduction.

On the morning at 6 am, a fourth year student says the autobuses set out from Dejen one after another, traveling through the Abay Gorge and passing Goha Tsion town when the student says the abduction was carried out by “Shene” militants.

The student described what happened during the abduction as follows, “from the front they were armed with guns, snipers and kalashnikoves. They forced us to stop at gunpoint, they forced us to exit the vehicle beating us all with a blunt weapon. Then they took us to the forest while running.”

The student described the act as “horrifying”, saying six of them managed to hide and escape when the abduction happened.

“When we reached a forested area we eventually found a village, with houses of farmers. Then we split off towards one side and six of us entered the house, this is where we lied down and managed to escape. They passed without seeing us. Shortly after the national defense force and militias, special forces reached the area.”

The student also mentioned that the autobus had other travelers on board including mothers holding their children, he said the number of people abducted could range between 120 and 130.

Another student who ran on foot and managed to escape the abduction said as many as 56 people from the three autobuses may have escaped including herself.

The student described the situation saying, “there were many of us, we didn't know where to run, we were falling and getting back up” adding that she was in shock.

The student told BBC “we all ran to save our lives” adding she sustained injuries and was admitted to hospital.

After the militants seized the travelers they traveled for around 5 km before a gunfire exchange broke out between government security forces and the militants, says the fourth year student.

He adds that friends told him they (militants) demanded ransom payment for their release from abduction.

One source said their sister who was a fourth year law student was abducted and that they were asked to pay a ransom of 700,000 birr.

She said her sister called using the abductors’ phone saying “if they don't receive 700,000 birr within three days they will kill me” and explained she did not know what could be done in the situation.

Today, Friday, July 5th (Sene 28) their sister called for the third time demanding payment of the ransom money, but they said the amount was beyond their means.

They said, “...let alone 700,000 I do not have the means to pay 7,000 birr.”

BBC contacted Debark University for further details and information but the university refrained from providing it.

Efforts by BBC to contact officials in the area where the incident transpired for further information were not successful.

The university’s president said, “we have informed the relevant federal institutions regarding the matter” but stated they did not want to provide further details beyond this remark.

Yesterday, Thursday night, over 50 students were released after “being separated based on the area where they came from” according to two students who spoke to BBC.

This is not the first time such abduction incidents have taken place in the North Shewa area which adjoins the Amhara and Oromia Regions. Prior to this, abductions have taken place on numerous occasions with random demands for the release of abducted persons.

Abductions for ransom have taken place throughout Oromia Region implicating the group known as “Shene” by the government or otherwise known as the Oromo Liberation Army which is designated as a terrorist organization.


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