A local group in Ethiopia announced on Wednesday that more than 20 people had been killed as a result of an attack on Muslims in the city of Gondar.
The attack took place during the funeral of a Muslim citizen.
The Islamic Affairs Council in Amhara, the region where Gondar is located, described Tuesday’s attack on a cemetery as a “massacre” of heavily armed “extremist Christians”.
The attackers “fired a torrent of heavy machine guns and grenades … leaving many dead while others injured have been taken to hospital”, the religious body said.
“More than 20 people have died as a result of yesterday’s attack, which also saw the looting of Muslim property,” it added.
The mayor of Gondar, Zewdu Malede, told the Ethiopian public service company EBC that “the incident was carried out by a few extremist individuals”.
“There has been some destruction and loss of life from all sides,” he said without revealing further details about the identity of the attackers or victims.
“The situation was under control at 19.00”
The cemetery where the attack took place borders a mosque and church and has been the subject of an ongoing dispute between Muslims and Orthodox Christians, which is the dominant group in Ethiopia.
“Although extensive measures have been taken to invade … the cemetery, the site has historically always been a Muslim cemetery,” the Islamic Affairs Council said in a statement.
Tuesday’s violence erupted as people clashed over the use of stones from the area for burial purposes, fighting over whether the material was taken from the cemetery or the church, the Amhara regional government said in a statement.
The government described the deceased Muslim citizen as “a father of the inhabitants of Gondar city, Gondar Christians and Muslims as well as a father of all” and promised to investigate the attack and hold the perpetrators responsible.
“An effort has been made to break the unity of the people in the historic city of Gondar, a symbol of coexistence and tolerance, by striving to create shining conflicts with religion,” the government said.
A senior Muslim official in the capital Addis Ababa told the Agence France-Presse (AFP) on condition that he was anonymous that “the attack was planned” and said that the armed men set fire to the mosque and the Koran.
The city’s mayor said the attackers were extremists who had tried to “burn down, destroy, destabilize and plunder Gondar”.
“This does not in any way represent the Muslim and Christian communities,” he added.
Muslims make up about a third of Ethiopia’s 110 million people and are a small minority in Amhara, the country’s second most populous region dominated by Orthodox Christians.
In 2019, several mosques in the city of Mota in Amhara, more than 350 kilometers (217 miles) north of Addis Ababa, were attacked in a wave of religious violence that triggered condemnation from Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
Analysts warn that conflicts that seem to have their roots in religion in Ethiopia are often also shaped by disputes over land use, ethnicity and other issues.
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