The deaths of nine civilians in Ethiopia’s restive Oromia region, home to its largest ethnic group, was due to an accidental shooting by soldiers, state media said Sunday.
Soldiers opened fire on the civilians near the town of Moyale on the southern border with Kenya after mistaking them for members of the banned Oromo Liberation Front (OLF) who were attempting to sneak into the country, Ethiopian News Agency (ENA) reported.
“The wrong information that members of the force received led to the confrontation that killed nine people and injured another 12,” ENA said, without specifying when the incident took place.
Five soldiers involved in the shooting have been jailed, the state agency added.
The government’s version of events could not immediately be independently confirmed.
The shooting was the latest episode of violence in the region of ethnic Oromos which has been a hotbed of anti-government sentiment since protests broke out there in late 2015.
That unrest, which spread to the neighbouring Amhara region and caused hundreds of deaths, pushed the government to declare a 10-month state of emergency in October 2016.
Ethiopia declared another emergency last month after Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn announced he would resign.
Rights groups including Amnesty International condemned the decree, saying they feared it could lead to abuses by security forces.
Top officials from the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) met on Sunday to start the process of choosing a replacement for Hailemariam, who will remain in his post until the succession is complete.