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ETHIOPIA: 5,000 flee to Kenya after military murders civilians

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Red Cross Secretary General Abbas Gullet. The Red Cross has said the number of refugees has increasd and was now estimated at 5,000.[File, Standard]

5000 Ethiopians flee to Kenya after botched military operation

More than 5,000 Ethiopians have crossed into Kenya seeking refuge since March 10, the Kenyan Red Cross Society said on Tuesday.

More refugees were expected to flock into Moyale Town in Kenya stretching services there after nine civilians were killed in what the Ethiopian military said was a botched security operation targeting militants.

The soldiers had been deployed to an area near the town of Moyale in Oromia, a region that borders Kenya, in pursuit of Oromo Liberation Front fighters who had crossed into the country from Kenya.

But faulty intelligence led soldiers to launch an attack that killed nine civilians and injured 12 others, the Ethiopian News Agency said.

Kenyan Red Cross Society said the population of refugees from Ethiopia continues to increase and was now estimated at 5,000.

Refugees from Ethiopia had begun to arrive in Kenya on March 10, it said, adding that they were mostly women and children, including “pregnant and lactating mothers, chronically ill persons, those abled differently and the elderly.”

Some of those fleeing had moved with their livestock, compounding pressure on struggling relief agencies, the Red Cross said.

“A medical team was further dispatched consisting of Nurses, Clinical Officers, Public Health Officers, as well as Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Officers,” KRCS said in a statement.

Security was Sunday reinforced on the side of Kenya in Moyale Town to deal with the arriving refugees.

“We hope things cool down before the situation worsens. Many people have arrived but we have sought help from other agencies to deal with it,” said a senior officer based in Moyale who asked not to be named.

Those arriving told Kenyan security agents electricity had been cut off from the town which forced the residents to flee into Kenya in fear of more attacks.

Eastern regional police boss Moses Ombati said they had beefed up security in the area with other government agencies being involved in screening the arriving Ethiopians.

“We are on the ground to ensure things are ok,” he said.

The Oromo Liberation Front is a secessionist group, which the Ethiopian government describes as terrorist.

Outbreaks of violence have continued in Oromia province even after Ethiopia declared a six-month, nationwide state of emergency last month following the resignation of Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

Many other people have also been internally displaced.

Ethiopia has said that five soldiers who took part in the attack near Moyale have been “disarmed” and are under investigation, while a high-level military delegation has been dispatched to the area to inquire further into the incident.

Desalegn said his unprecedented February 15 resignation was intended to smooth the way for reforms, following years of violent unrest that threatened the ruling EPRDF coalition’s hold on Africa’s second-most populous nation.

His successor as premier and EPRDF chairperson is expected to be named before the end of this month.

Following protests in various parts of the country, especially in Oromia regional state, against the martial law, on February 27 the command post said its patience against the “anti-peace” elements had run out and it no longer tolerates any form of disruptions to public lives; it also said it instructed security forces “to take all necessary measures to restore peace.”

Since then however there has been an increase in crackdown against middle level bureaucrats within the Oromia regional state. Unknown numbers of individuals are detained.

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