Ethiopia command post says 9 civilians killed by mistake

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — Ethiopian security forces mistakenly killed nine civilians in Moyale, located on the country’s southern border with Kenya, according to a command post established to oversee Ethiopia’s state of emergency.

Five members of Ethiopia’s National Defense Forces involved in the killings have been disarmed and are under investigation, the command post stated.

“A special armed unit set up in the border area to take measures against the Oromo Liberation Front militants mistakenly attacked civilians that resulted in the deaths of nine people,” said a statement issued by the command post, adding that 12 other civilians were also injured in the incident. “The investigation will be concluded in a short time and the result will be announced to the public.”

Since Ethiopia’s government declared a state of emergency in mid-February the security forces have killed several other people, according to a human rights group. Seven people were killed by security forces in the restive Oromia region since the beginning of the month, the Association for Human Rights in Ethiopia said on March 9.

“We also received information that hundreds of people were arrested for violating the (latest) state of emergency, a few weeks after the government released thousands of prisoners, including high profile political prisoners .They have not been charged and their current location is unknown,” said the rights group.

Ethiopia imposed the state of emergency following months of unrest in some parts of the country that tarnished the country’s image as one of Africa’s best performing economies. Security forces are now instructed to take measures against any threats to them, a move that many fear may lead to the killing of civilians and peaceful protesters.

The emergency effectively bans contacting parties and individuals labeled terrorist groups, obstructing transport services, carrying weapons in specified areas and obstructing educational institutions.

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said on March 8 during a visit to Ethiopia that the United States believes the answer to the country’s demonstrations is greater freedom, not less.

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn recently resigned amid the protests and a new leader is expected to be inaugurated in the coming days.

On Sunday, the Executive Committee of the ruling party started its much anticipated meeting and it is expected to elect a new chair upon the conclusion of it. The new chair will automatically become the next prime minister of Ethiopia.

Ethiopia is a strong U.S security ally but the government is often accused of stifling dissent and arresting journalist, activists and opposition figures. Officials recently released several high- profile opposition figures and journalists after the outgoing Prime Minister pledged to open up the political space in the country.

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