(OPride) -Ethiopian security forces shot and killed at least 11 protesters and wounded 23 others in Ambo town, 120 kilometers west of the capital, Addis Ababa.

Ambo is no stranger to violence or expressions of dissent. The popular Oromo protests, by Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, which culminated in the declaration of a nationwide state of emergency last October, started in this town in May 2014. Security forces killed dozens of protesters on its streets in 2014 and 2016 as the federal army took over the restive town to stamp out the protests.

Since the state of emergency was lifted in August, an eerie calm had prevailed in Ambo ― and in much of the restive Oromia region, the largest of Ethiopia’s nine-linguistic based federal states. But that semblance of calm ended abruptly on Thursday when the federal army returned.

Ambo is currently under siege. The U.S. embassy has expressed concerns and called on security forces to exercise restraint. However, outside of Ethiopia, the unfolding crisis has received scant media coverage.

On Oct. 27, BBC Afaan Oromo released a 30-second video from Thursday’s massacre in Ambo. The chilling video, which appears to be a collage of short clips from around Ambo, offers a raw evidence of the federal army’s indiscriminate and brutal slaughter of civilians.

Ten seconds into the video, soldiers are seen marching down an empty street. Suddenly, someone tells a soldier in clearly audible Amharic “Betisew (በጥሰው)!” which in this context means “fire” or “let it rip.” The order was immediately followed by a gunfire blast. The firing soldier appears to be given orders by a superior or colleague and follows as commanded.
The horrific monologue is as follows:
Speaker (presumably a commanding officer): Fire!
(Soldier fires a round.)
Speaker: Belew! (The Amharic word በለው loosely means “hit it!”, a clear order to fire again.)
(Soldier fires another round).
Speaker: Belew!
(Soldier fires multiple rounds).
Wails of an injured person can be heard at a distance. We hear more rounds being fired. The speaker resumes commands: Digemew! (ድገመው), which means, “shoot (do it) again!” More blasts go off.

The commander, the only person speaking intelligibly in the video, yells the final order: “Finish him off!” (ጨርሰው!). BBC bleeped out the next statement by the officer. However, OPride has confirmed that the speaker used profanity to insult the mother of the victim. Another round was fired and this one appears to have killed the victim, who can no longer be heard.
Speaking to Deutsche Welle’s Amharic service, the spokesperson for Ambo city administration, Gadissa Dasalegn, said the killers were “members of the Agazi (special) forces.” He maybe right. OPride consulted with several gun experts to determine the type of weapons heard in the aforementioned audio.
Experts believe it is the AK-103 assault rifle, which can hit a target up to half a kilometer away. A favorite of special forces, including the Indian Naval Commando forces and special force units in Iran and Russia, the rifle is not used by regular army units. Ethiopia apparently produces the weapon, which means that the lethal weapon used to kill protesters in Ambo may have been manufactured at the Gafat weapons plant, in Bishoftu, also in Oromia.


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