Ethiopia rights commission said armed group has 'taken control' of county


NAIROBI (Reuters) - An armed group has taken control of a county in northeastern Ethiopia, reportedly killing civilians and kidnapping public servants, the state-appointed Ethiopian Human Rights Commission reported late on Wednesday.

The commission said it received reports that Sedal Woreda, in Kamashi Zone of the western Benishangul-Gumuz Region, was "under near full control of an armed group as of April 19". The commission did not say which armed group it was referring to. The woreda, or county, has is home to around 25,000 people, said the commission.

Benishangul-Gumuz has seen an explosion of ethnic violence in recent months, including an attack in December that killed more than 200 civilians. The region is home to a myriad of ethnic groups, including the Gumuz and the Amhara, and has seen increasingly bloody tit-for-tat attacks on civilians.

"Residents who have fled the area told EHRC that the armed group has burned down and looted public and private property and that the woreda (county) administration and local police have fled the area. There are also reports that civilians have been killed and public servants have been kidnapped," the commission said in a statement.

"According to residents and officials EHRC spoke to, a small contingent of the regional security force in the vicinity is outnumbered," the commission said.

Ethiopia is battling to contain multiple outbreaks of ethnic and political violence ahead of national elections in June.

(Reporting by Nairobi newsroom; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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