Gunmen in western Ethiopia have killed at least 34 people in an attack on a bus, the national human rights body said Sunday.
The Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said the number of people killed was likely to rise after what it called a "gruesome" attack on the passenger bus in the Benishangul-Gumuz region on Saturday.
Details of the attack remained unclear in a country that has seen escalating violence in recent weeks.
The EHRC also said that "there are reports of similar attacks" in three other areas, including on people "who have fled to seek shelter."
"The latest attack is a grim addition to the human cost which we bear collectively," Daniel Bekele, commission head, said in a statement.
Security crisis mounts
Fears are growing of a security vacuum in the country amid a military campaign in the northern Tigray region.
Similar attacks occurred in the same region in the past few months. An attack in October left 12 people dead and 15 were killed there in September.
"The unrelenting pace of attacks on civilians in Benishangul-Gumuz calls for higher vigilance and a more coordinated action between regional and federal security forces," Bekele said
He continued with a plea for cooperation: "We urge the federal and regional security and judicial authorities to work together, and in consultation with the local community, to redesign a regional security strategy that can put a final stop to these attacks."
Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed held neighboring Sudan responsible for training those who carried out the earlier attacks.
No link to Tigray conflict
There was no known connection between the attacks in Benishangul-Gumuz and the recent violence that broke out between the central Ethiopian government and Tigray fighters.
The 12-day-old conflict in Tigray had already led to concerns that it may spill over into other parts of the region.
The federal government pushed through a series of reforms in the past two years that left the regional Tigrayan government sidelined.
Led by the Tigray People's Liberation Front party (TPLF), the Tigrayans long dominated Ethiopia's military and political life for decades before Mr Abiy took office in 2018.
He broke up the the ruling coalition and merged them into a single national party, that the TPLF refused to join.
Tensions rose in September when Tigray defied a nationwide ban on elections owing to the coronavirus pandemic, which the government branded illegal.
Officials there believe the federal goverment is trying to take power away from them.
Prime Minister Abiy ordered the military operation against the TPLF when accused them of attacking a military camp on November 4.
The TPLF denied any involvement.
jf/dj (AP, AFP, Reuters)