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Government Forces Kill 4 in Ethiopia's Oromia Region

By Solomon Abate, Salem Solomon, Tizita Belachew October 12, 2017

Ethiopian government forces killed four people and wounded 18 others Thursday in the town of Soda in the restive Oromia region.

Residents, who asked for anonymity out of fear of retaliation by the Ethiopian government, told VOA's Horn of Africa service that eight trucks escorted by federal forces were stopped by residents of Soda and surrounding villages, suspecting the trucks were transporting weapons to special "Liyu" police in the neighboring Somali region.

The Oromia head of security, Kulutu Fara, said, "The federal forces were angered by the residents' demand to stop the trucks and opened fire, killing four people."

He said the eight trucks suspected of transporting weapons remain in Soda, and federal government officials are talking with locals in an effort to resolve the conflict.

In the meantime, protests continued Thursday in several Oromia towns.

On Wednesday, at least eight people were killed and more than 30 wounded during protests in several Oromia cities and towns, according to Addisu Arega, head of the regional government's communications affairs bureau.

He said that five people were killed during a protest in Shashemene, 250 kilometers southeast of Addis Ababa, and three more were killed in Bookeeti, in the west Harrage zone of the Oromia.

Addisu blames unspecified forces for instigating young people to participate in spontaneous protests, resulting in loss of life.

Witnesses in Shashemene told VOA that federal government forces opened fire on demonstrators who marched past their camp.

Oromia has experienced periodic, sometimes violent anti-government protests since late 2015. The protesters in Shashemene were calling for the release of detained political leaders, economic justice and ending displacements and expulsions of Oromos from towns and villages of the Somali region.

On Wednesday, the U.S. embassy in Ethiopia issued a security message advising Americans not to travel to Shashemene and adjacent areas at this time.

A large but peaceful protest took place Thursday at Ambo University in the town of Wolisso. University lecturer Seyoum Teshome told VOA that thousands of demonstrators chanted, "Down, down, Weyane," a reference to Ethiopia's ruling EPRDF coalition, and demanded the release of political prisoners.

Teshome said police watched the protest but took no measures to stop it, and the town was calm by midday.

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