“The atrocities committed by armed militants from South Sudan’s Murle tribe claimed the lives of 208 mothers and children. They also abducted 102 children,” PM Hailemariam Desalegn said.

By Paul Schemm |

­Ethiopia’s leaders have vowed to hunt down gunmen from South Sudan who massacred about 200 villagers and kidnapped more than 100 children in a cross-
border raid last week, state media reported Monday.

Gunmen from the Murle tribe descended on a dozen villages in Ethiopia’s remote Gambella province early Friday, snatching children, shooting adults and carrying off more than 2,000 head of cattle.

“What we know is that they are heavily armed and well organized, and they knew what they were doing,” government spokesman Getachew Reda told The Washington Post. “Security forces have killed dozens of them, and some of them clearly were wearing military camouflage, but in that part of Africa, it is not entirely surprising.”

He added that Ethiopian forces are in discussions with South Sudan’s government and that a cross-border operation is a “distinct possibility.”

Although cattle rustling and violence between rival tribal groups is common in the remote region, the scale and ferocity of the attack was unprecedented.

In a televised address late Sunday, Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn expressed his “deepest grief” over the raid and said defense forces were pursuing the attackers and would free the children.

“The atrocities committed by armed militants from South Sudan’s Murle tribe claimed the lives of 208 mothers and children. They also abducted 102 children,” he said.

Ethiopians took to social media to express sorrow over the attack as well as outrage that official statements were not issued until days afterward.

Several top government officials, including the prime minister, were attending a high-profile African security conference in the city of Bahir Dar over the weekend.

Gambella province is more than 300 miles southwest of the capital and is lightly populated, but it is also home to nearly 280,000 refugees from the fighting in South Sudan, where a civil war raged until late last year.

The international community brokered a tense peace deal between the warring factions in South Sudan last year. On Monday, dissident Vice President Riek Machar, who has been in Ethi­o­pia, had been expected to fly from Gambella back to Juba, South Sudan’s capital, but his return was delayed at the last minute.

Continue reading this story on The Washington Post
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