Over 140 civilians kidnapped in Ethiopia

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam

The Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam. At least 145 Gumuz families, including children, women and the elderly have been kidnapped in the last few days around the dam.

Photo credit: Adwa Pictures | AFP

The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said on Friday that 145 people have been abducted by militants in the country's Benishangul-Gumuz state bordering Sudan.

In a statement, the commission said that at least 145 Gumuz families, including children, women and the elderly have been kidnapped in the last few days.

The attacks were carried out by Gumuz militants who are active in Benshangul-Gumz, a region where Ethiopia is constructing a multi-billion dollar mega dam project known as Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD).

Source told Nation.africa that following the rare mass kidnapping, regional police have launched rescue operations.

The militants abducted the civilians accusing them of “not supporting” their armed struggle and detained them in Mersha and Ekfet. 

“At least two of the hostages were killed by the militants” EHRC said based on reports from eyewitnesses and residents who escaped the attack. 

Since March, thousands of residents have fled to other areas as a result of repeated attacks in Sedal district. 

The latest attack, according to EHRC, has also forced an additional 5,000 residents of Sedal district to displace from their home towns and are temporarily sheltered in other district administration compounds.

The rights body noted that there had been a "fight" between security forces and militants in the area since late September and that efforts had been made to evacuate residents to safer areas.

However, both Sedal district officials and residents who fled the district told the Ethiopian rights commission that the security forces in the area are inadequate and stressed a need for deployment of more security forces to avert the repeated attacks by the Gumuz militants.

EHRC Chief Commissioner Daniel Bekele called for immediate supply of the necessary humanitarian assistance to thousands of people displaced by the latest attacks.

"The commission urges the people of Sedal Woreda not to be exposed to the worsening humanitarian crisis and for immediate action to be taken to ensure that the displaced people sheltered in Daliti and other temporary shelters to receive the necessary humanitarian assistance,"

He called on the federal government and the local command post to take immediate action to strengthen the security situation in Benishangul-Gumuz's Metekel and Kamashi zones where the armed group frequently carries out deadly attacks.

In Benishangul-Gumz State, repeated attacks by militants in the Kamashi and Tekel zones have long endangered civilian lives and property.

Residents of the areas have been accusing the regional and federal governments for not doing enough to ensure the security in the areas.