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30 killed following ambush in Gambella, Ethiopia declares curfew

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June 11, 2006 (ADDIS ABABA) — Ethiopian authorities imposed a curfew on Gambella town, in Western Ethiopia on Sunday at 7pm local time following the ambush of a bus at 6pm in which around 30 people are believed to have been killed.

Gambella residents were watching action from the World Cup when they were ordered home for the curfew, which has been accompanied by a water and power cut, the anti genocide group Aegis Trust said.

Ethiopian troops and highlander militia are reported to be out on the streets in force. Gunfire was heard in Anuak areas of the town between 8pm and 8.30pm local time, and tensions are running high.

While it remains unclear who was responsible for the ambush and who was on the bus, the attack is thought to be linked to strife between the Anuak and other minorities in Gambella, in particular the highlanders and the Nuer, which has been accentuated since 2003.

In December 2003, several hundred Anuak were massacred in Gambella town by highlander militia. A number of Ethiopian Government soldiers were also reported to have been involved in the killings.

The massacre came months after oil giant Petronas obtained a concession from the Ethiopian Government to conduct exploration activity in the Gambella basin - traditional Anuak territory. In the wake of the massacre, 30,000 Anuak fled to Pochalla, in south-east Sudan, and a small Anuak rebel movement started to operate in Gambella, harassing the authorities with increasing effectiveness.

Between 11-12 April 2006, following operations to disarm Anuak along the Sudan-Ethiopia border, a substantial number of Ethiopian troops crossed into Sudan and advanced on Pochalla. As women and children fled the refugee camp in expectation of a massacre, Aegis’ reports sparked intense media and diplomatic interest in the situation. The troops halted outside Pochalla and then withdrew to Ethiopia without entering the town.

(ST/Aegis)

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