By Addis Getachew and Andrew Wasike
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, NAIROBI, Kenya (AA) - The Amhara regional state, the second most populous in Ethiopia after the Oromia region, has witnessed more than 4,000 arrests in recent days during a crackdown launched by the regional government.
Rights groups have said the crackdown has targeted journalists, critics, and militia fighters.
The arrests in the second-most populous city in Ethiopia were to extricate residents from gangs, according to the regional government.
“More than 4,000 people suspected of committing crimes were arrested,” said Desalegn Tassew, head of the Peace and Security bureau of the Amhara regional state, according to the Amhara Media Corporation.
It reported that Desalegn said Monday that the crackdown would continue as the regional government would not relent in safeguarding the peace and stability of the region.
But rights groups, including the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, have voiced concerns and raised the alarm about the arrests of prominent journalists and activists saying that the government should investigate and provide answers about the cases.
Journalists and activists have taken to social media to demand the release of colleagues, arguing that the detentions are illegal.
The Tigray People's Liberation Front (TPLF) rebels from the Tigray region have demanded an opening up of a “humanitarian corridor” via Sudan through the Wolkayyit, a fertile region that the Amhara and Tigray regional governments claim to have administrative jurisdiction over.
The Wolkayyit and Humera regions bordering Sudan were annexed by the TPLF before 1991 at the time guerrilla fighters from Ethiopia’s northernmost Tigray region were about to take political power in Ethiopia.
By the time the Constitution was endorsed in 1994, the contested regions were shown to be part of Western Tigray.
There has been a 19-month conflict between the federal government and Tigray rebels, according to the UN, that has caused the internal displacement of more than 2 million residents, the deaths of thousands and the destruction of a sizable amount of property.