An unknown number of troops and civilians, including children and women, have been killed and many others injured in “severe and horrific” attacks in North Shewa zone of Amhara state in Ethiopia, local authorities have said.
The attacks displaced thousands who are sheltering in schools in neighbouring towns in the region.
The zonal security chief, Abera Mekonnen, told the BBC that the attacks – which started on Thursday evening and continued over the weekend – occurred in five districts of the zone, about 250 km (155 miles) from the capital, Addis Ababa.
The head of communication for the regional state, Gizachew Muluneh, told the state media, that the attacks were “severe and horrific”.
He blamed the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) rebels and “other followers”.
Mr Abera said, “a very large number of armed forces invaded the areas”. The zonal chief and local residents said the fighters, who were well armed with heavy artillery, “burned down houses and killed people”.
He said the attacks were “beyond the control” of the federal security forces deployed to the area during previous attacks in March – where more than 300 people were killed over several days.
On Sunday, Ethiopia’s defence ministry issued a statement saying that north Shewa, South Wollo and Oromo special zone in Amhara would be under its command.
Ethiopia is due to hold national elections in June and there are fears that the unrest in Amhara and other regions – and the aftermath of the major conflict to suppress separatist forces in Tigray – could undermine the poll.