Breaking News: Over 100 Amhara University Students Kidnapped in Oromia Region

July 5, 2024: In a shocking development, more than one hundred university students traveling from the Amhara region to the capital, Addis Ababa, have been kidnapped by militants in the Oromia region of Ethiopia.

Eyewitnesses and families of the hostages have reported to the BBC that the passengers, predominantly students from Debarak University, were abducted by armed gunmen in the Gerbe Guracha area of the North Showa zone in Oromia.

While some students managed to escape and others were later released, the incident occurred approximately 155 kilometers north of Addis Ababa.

The students departed from Debarq city and Bahir Dar, located in the North Gondar zone of the Amhara region, traveling in three public transport buses on Wednesday, July 3, 2024 . The buses were reportedly intercepted by militants identified as OLA “Shene.”

Two students who escaped from the buses, which were from Debarak University, confirmed to the BBC that their bus was stopped en route from Bahir Dar to Addis Ababa at a small village between Goha Zion and Tulu Milki.

One fourth-year student recounted the harrowing experience, stating, “They were armed with sniper rifles and Kalashnikovs. They forced us out of the buses at gunpoint and led us into the forest.”

Describing the ordeal as “horrific,” the student said that they managed to escape by hiding. “We found a village and took refuge in a farmer’s house. We stayed there overnight and managed to evade the militants when they passed by without seeing us. Later, defense forces and militias arrived.”

The student also noted that the buses were carrying not only students but also mothers with children and other passengers, estimating the total number of hostages to be between 120 and 130.

Another student, who managed to escape by running, recounted that 56 people, including herself, fled from the three buses. “We were falling and getting up in panic, just trying to save our lives,” she said, adding that she was injured and received hospital treatment.

The students reported that after traveling about five kilometers with the hostages, there was an exchange of gunfire between government security forces and the militants.

Eyewitnesses and families of the hostages told the BBC that the passengers, most of whom are students of Debarak University, were kidnapped by gunmen in the Gerbe Guracha area of ​​the North Showa zone of Oromia region.

It has also been revealed that the kidnappers are demanding ransom for the release of the hostages. One family member, whose sister is a fourth-year law student, reported that they were asked to pay 700,000 Birr for her release. The kidnappers warned, “If you don’t pay 700,000 Birr in three days, we will kill you.”

The desperate family, unable to meet the ransom demand, has received repeated calls from the kidnappers. “We don’t have the capacity to pay even 7,000 Birr, let alone 700,000 Birr,” the family member lamented.

As of today, Friday, June 28, the situation remains dire, with families of the hostages grappling with the impossible ransom demands and the uncertainty of their loved ones’ safety.

The acts of kidnappings have dramatically increased recently with individual citizens, construction workers, employees of state-owned enterprises such as Ethiopian Electric Power, and even farmers falling to the hands of the culprits. The victims often accuse members of the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and regional government security apparatus.

A similar incident occurred on August 2, 2023, as reported by Borkena, stating that “Gunmen linked to the group that calls itself Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) – a radical ethnic Oromo militant group – reportedly kidnapped passengers who were traveling from the Amhara region to the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa.

Addis Maleda, citing residents from the area, indicated that the incident happened in the North Shoa zone Kuyu district in the Tulu Milki locality on Monday this week around 3 p.m. local time. The bus was traveling from Bahir Dar, the seat of the Amhara region state, to Addis Ababa. It was carrying 65 people. The OLA released only two elderly people while taking away the remaining, including the driver and his assistant,” residents and eyewitnesses have told the source.

“We are grieving. I can’t stop thinking about her. The entire family can’t eat,” a visibly pained Mare Abebe told the BBC.
She is worried about Belaynesh Mekonnen, a first-year economics student at Ethiopia’s Dembi Dolo University, who was kidnapped December 2019, along with 17 of her colleagues.

Horrific killings in Tole, allegedly at the hands of the Oromo Liberation Army, reveal its perpetrators’ utter disregard for human life. This callous massacre, which also saw women and children lose their lives, must be independently and effectively investigated,” said Deprose Muchena, Amnesty International’s Director for East and Southern Africa on 18 June, 2022. Amnesty International has previously documented attacks on ethnic Amhara, allegedly carried out by OLA forces.

In a separate but related incident, 17 Amhara students, mostly female, were kidnapped from Dembidollo University in western Ethiopia in November 2019. Armed assailants targeted these students based on their ethnicity, forcibly taking them while they were traveling to their homes after ethnic tension disrupted their ability to continue their education safely. Their whereabouts remain unknown to this day, and there has been growing criticism that the government has not done enough to secure their release.

These continued abductions and targeted attacks highlight the escalating insecurity and ethnic violence in Ethiopia, raising urgent questions about the government’s ability to protect its citizens and maintain order.

EAR Editorial Note :

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