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7 police officers, unknown number of armed protesters killed in Oromia

Seven law enforcements officers and an unknown number of armed protesters were killed in the series of clashes that happened on Monday in West Arsi zone of the Oromia Regional State.

The recent clashes were widely observed in Shalla, Siraro and Shashemene woredas in West Arsi zone causing destruction of various properties. The Government Communications Affairs Office (GCAO) minister, Getachew Reda told The Reporterthat the armed protesters burned farms, forests and other government institutions as well as churches and mosques during the clash. He added that the causes of the clash is under investigation.

According to the locals, the cause of the clashes an alleged ban of an Oromifa song that has a political content. They told The Reporter that the clashes started after police officers questioned why the banned song was played at a wedding ceremony. 

The violent clashes claimed the lives of seven police offices as well as an unknown number of protesters and caused the destruction of properties in the region. Getachew noted that 12 were arrested in relation with the recent violent clashes in West Arsi zone. 

Although the government is still in the process of investigating the causes and damages of the clashes, Getachew claimed that the clashes were not a continued part of the protest that shook Oromia Regional State a couple of months ago. “This is because the nature of the protest seems to have changed as the armed protesters burnt religious institutions like churches and mosques,” he said.

Getachew added that the clashes are under control and the elders are calming down the public. But sources told The Reporter that there are protests are in some areas of the region. Sources said that there are roadblocks in different parts of Oromia.

According to US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) and opposition parties, during the protest against the Addis Ababa and Oromia Special Zone Integrated Masterplan at least 140 people were killed. In addition, more that three thousands people were jailed for taking part in mass anti-government demonstrations since November, according to opposition parties.   

Apart from damages to government property, there were also reports of attacks on private property including those owned by foreign investors such as Dangote Cement. The government have not yet given an officially statement regarding the damages incurred because of the protest.  

It is to be recalled that the protests against the integrated masterplan first began in April 2014 which left more than a dozen killed in Ambo town, 125km west of Addis Ababa. Protesters fear the plan would enable the capital city to expand into the surrounding Oromia regions at the expense of Oromo farmers, language and culture.