(OPride)—The Liyu Police, a paramilitary militia under the jurisdiction of the Somali regional government, carried out yet another mass killing of nearly forty unarmed civilians in Oromia’s Eastern Hararghe zone.
At least 44 people remain hospitalized, according to Addis Standard. The attack, which took place in the Mayu Muluke Woreda, is the latest mass killings of Somalis in the region. The Eastern Hararghe zone has been especially vulnerable to Liyu Police attacks. A series of raids conducted by the militia group in the nearby district of Chinaksen left some 40 people dead in mid July.
According to eyewitness accounts, Liyu Police fighters systematically targeted residents, going door to door and murdering men, women, children and the elderly in cold blood. After killing the occupants of the homes, fighters made off with loot robbed from the targeted homes and then set them ablaze. Mohammed Siraj was among those attacked in his home and he recounted his horrific experience in an interview with the BBC.
“We were in our home when the Liyu Police smashed open the door, forcing their way in,” said Mohammed, who spoke on the phone with the BBC’s Amharic language service from his hospital bed. “They killed my wife, my daughter and also the two year old child of a neighbour who was with us. I was hit in the heart. They sliced my ear off and left, thinking I was dead.”
A team from the Oromia region state broadcaster Oromia Broadcasting Network (OBN), made their way to the Mayu Muluke Hospital to speak with survivors. Footage showed distressed loved ones outside hospital wards awaiting updates. The wounded, all of whom appeared to have been shot, described their attackers as having “sophisticated weapons.”
“They (Liyu Police) had snipers posted around us,” said one man, who appeared to have taken a bullet to the abdomen. “They had powerful weapons and they butchered a lot of our people. We had no way of defending ourselves.”
“They came from Jijiga,” another told OBN. He had his theory for why the Liyu Police attacked their homes. “The Liyu Police want to take our land.”
The attack on innocent villagers in Mayu Muluke and at least two other nearby woredas is the first of its kind by the Liyu Police since the infamous militia group’s founder, former Somali state President Abdi Illey was forced out of power last week. Under his tutelage, the Liyu Police commited a string of horrific massacres over the past decade, both within its own constituency and beyond its borders. Fighters typically kill everyone in sight before ransacking property and making off with anything of value. It’s not clear who is at the helm of the Liyu Police’s operating structure or who greenlighted the latest killings. It’s clear that the removal of Abdi Illey and the takeover of the Somali state capital Jijiga by federal forces, hasn’t affected the group’s ability to commit gruesome atrocities.
The Oromia regional government, under fire for its inability to prevent Liyu Police intrusions into Oromia, was also criticized for its inability to intervene in another incident on Sunday in which a man was mob lynched by a crowd in Shashemene. The unidentified man, who was pulled out of his vehicle, was accused by the mob of plotting to kill renowned activist Jawar Mohammed who was in town, visiting supporters. The state Communications Bureau chief Negeri Lencho told OBN that the government was working on solutions to curb the scourge. Public outrage over perceived inaction and continuous Liyu Police assaults has confidence levels in the state’s security services at record lows. In another incursion into Eastern Hararghe by the Somali paramilitary group back in May, over 250 homes were razed to the ground.
As is custom, the Somali regional government have refrained from publicly commenting on the increasingly brutal conduct of their forces. Opride wasn’t successful in its attempts to contact officials, including interim President Ahmed Abdi and Communications Affairs Bureau Chief Ismail Idris. Messages and phone calls respectively went unanswered.