Ethiopian troops identified and surrounded the areas where South Sudanese gunmen are keeping the abducted children, officials say.

The children were abducted after thousands South Sudanese gunmen attacked in Ethiopia’s western region Gambella.

The gunmen, mostly from the Murle tribe, staged massive attacks on seventeen Kebeles(localities) last Friday at dawn. At least 182 people were killed, several dozen injured, abducted 125 children and thousands of cattle were stolen.

Government officials reported in the weekend that an army unit started hunting the attackers immediately afterwards and killed at least 60 alleged perpetrators of the attack.

President of Gambella region, Gatluak Tut Koat, said today that Ethiopian troops have located the abducted children. The army has surrounded the areas and is mounting offensive on the abductors, he added.

Map - Gambella, Ethiopia

According to HornAffairs’ sources, South Sudan have conceded to Ethiopia’s intervention after some reluctance in the weekend. It was not immediately clear whether western and regional actors are supportive of Ethiopia’s military undertakings, though the European Union issued a statement of condolences today.

The scale of last Friday’s attack triggered speculations on the role of the South Sudanese government behind the attack. Rebel leader Riek Machar was reportedly close by when the attack took place and some claim he might have been the target. The areas attacked last Friday’s are dominated by the Nuer ethnic group, to whom Riek Machar also belongs.

However, Ethiopian officials rushed to claim neither the government of Salva Kiir nor the rebel group led by Riek Machar was involved in the attacks.

Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn solely blamed the Murle tribe for the attacks whom he described as driven by “traditional backwards beliefs” in a brief statement on Sunday.

Local sources told HornAffairs that at least some of the attackers were still present in some areas inside Gambella, including Gog Woreda at the begging of this week. The details of the circumstances are not clear, however.

The Federal Parliament have declared a two days National Mourning starting today.


Editing: An earlier version of this article claimed 208 people killed. That is the total of recent killings. Friday’s attack cost about 182 lives.

Daniel Berhane

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