A suspected Christian gang killed more than 20 Muslims in an attack in the northern Ethiopian city of Gondar during the funeral of an Islamic elder, a local Muslim group alleged today. The Islamic Affairs Council of Amhara described the attack at a cemetery as a “massacre” by heavily-armed “extremist Christians”. Gondar is a part of the Amhara region.
The attackers “fired a barrage of heavy machine guns and grenades… leaving many dead while others who were injured have been taken to hospital”, the Muslim association said. “More than 20 have died due to yesterday’s attack which also saw the looting of Muslim properties,” it said.
Zewdu Malede, the mayor of Gondar, told Ethiopian public broadcaster EBC that the “incident was carried out by a few extremist individuals”.
“There has been some destruction and loss of lives from all sides,” Malede said without elaborating on the identity of the attackers or the victims. “The situation was (brought) under control by 7:00 PM,” he added.
There was no comment from officials at the Amhara regional government while the police in Gondar have not issued a statement either. The spot of crime has been the subject of an ongoing dispute between Muslims and Orthodox Christians who account for the majority of Ethiopia’s population (Ethiopian Orthodox 43.5%, Protestantism 18.6%, Roman Catholicism 0.7%, Islam 33.9%, traditional 2.6%, and others 0.6%).
“Although ongoing wide-ranging measures have been taken to invade the… cemetery, the place has been historically at all times a Muslim cemetery,” the Muslim body said in its statement.
The city’s mayor said the attackers were extremists who had sought “to burn down, to destroy, to destabilise and to loot Gondar.”
Muslims make up about a third of Ethiopia’s population of 110 million. They are a sizable minority in Amhara, the country’s second-most-populous region dominated by Orthodox Christians.
In 2019, Christians attacked several mosques in the town of Mota in Amhara, more than 350 km north of the capital Addis Ababa in a wave of religious violence that sparked condemnation by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
African observers caution that conflicts that appear to be rooted in religion in Ethiopia are often also shaped by disputes over land use, ethnicity and other issues.