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Families of mob-attack victims fear for safety

Families of mob-attack victims fear for safety

The families of Fitsum Mehari and Haftu Hagezom, victims of the Wollega mob attack a week ago, expressed their concern for their safety following the brutal killings of the two individuals by a mob in Eastern Wollega Zone, The Reporter has learnt.

The two individuals were killed on August 11, 2018, around 5:00 pm local time. They were stoned to death as well as attacked by a blade. The deceased were on their way to their birth place in Northern Ethiopia, Tigray Region, when the attack happened.

Obtaining permission from the local administration, Subusrea woreda, the two victims were transporting their property out of the locality. The two, ethnically Tigray, were planning to resettle their families in Tigray following recent deteriorating security condition and their personal safety.

According to family members and friends whose names The Reporter decide to withhold, the two farmers decided to leave the area following ethnic related attacks targeting non-Oromos in the woreda.

The attack took place while Fitsum, 40 and Haftu, 37, were driving, just a few kilometers from Subsrea woreda. The two came to East Wollega back in 1984 as a child following one of the worst droughts which largely affected Northern and North Eastern Ethiopia. They were part of a resettlement program by the then Ethiopian government. During the drought, thousands of families were resettled in the then Wollega District.

In the woreda where Fitsum and Haftu used to live, there are currently close to 300 households settled by the same resettlement program.

Following the killings, families and friends of the deceased told The Reporter that they are in a grave danger and are concerned that similar attacks might occur again. They also expressed their anger over the local police’s failure to protect the two farmers from the attacks.

“There were similar attacks four months ago and it stopped after the ascendance of Abiy Ahmed (PhD) to the Premiership; however, over the past few weeks, the attacks are reemerging,” said a friend of the deceased. 

The framers, both fathers of six, were stopped by a mob comprised of largely youngsters who forced the drivers to hand over the vehicle. As minutes went by, one of the attackers started to drive the vehicle, according to multiple sources.

The driver stopped near a police station, 25 km from Subuserea. By the time, Fitsum was forced to hand over his legally registered weapon by the police.

As they reached near the police station, the mob started to attack them with stone, knife and sticks.

The sad part is no one was able to save them or stop the attackers, the families told The Reporter

After the killing, the family of the deceased found their bodies at a health station in the woreda.

The families of the two farmers are planning to take their body to Tigray and have the funeral there, The Reporter was told. However, they claim that they were forced to bury the bodies there instead.

“We were forced to bury them there instead of their birth place,” said one member of the family.

“Yes, they were killed near a police station,” Bekeri Tamesgen, head of Justice and Security Bureau of the woreda, confirmed to The Reporter.

“By the time our members tried to stop the attackers, it was beyond their capacity,” he said. “We are not sure about the motive behind the attack and we are still investigating the case,” he added.

So far, Bekeri said, three police officers were arrested in connection to the attacks.

As to the burial arrangements, Bekeri admitted that the officials of the woreda favored a local burial for the deceased fearing another incident during the transportation of the bodies to Tigray. However, he said this happened in agreement with the families of the victims and that it was not forced.

Friends and family members claim the killings were ethnically motivated.

And hence say: “We fear for our life and we need a protection from the government”. “We were born and raised in Oromia. We know less about Tigray,” said the same sources.