Fresh fighting broke out in the second-largest city of Ethiopia’s restive Amhara region as militiamen clashed with the army over government plans to disarm local forces.
Fighters from a militia called Fano battled military units Sunday in the city of Gondar, a major tourist and commercial hub, residents told The Associated Press. “It was very heavy,” said one person who spoke by phone and declined to be named because of safety concerns.
Calm had mostly been restored by Monday morning, with the army back in control of the city, although sporadic gunfire was still heard, residents said. The shops were closed and the streets were empty.
In other areas of Amhara, including the regional capital Bahir Dar and Lalibela, another major tourist town, there were no clashes, residents said on Monday.
Violence gripped Amhara, Ethiopia’s second most populous state, in early August, with Fano fighters seizing control of several major cities and protesters blocking roads. The army regained control after several days.
AT LEAST 26 DEAD, OVER 55 INJURED IN ETHIOPIAN AIRLINES
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In response to the riots, the government blocked internet access and imposed a state of emergency. The fighting has fueled fears of a new civil war following the conflict in neighboring Tigray, which ended with a ceasefire in November.
The violence was sparked by a plan launched in April to disarm the region’s forces, which the government says pose a threat to Ethiopia’s constitutional order. The Amhara ethnic group say they need the forces for protection, citing attacks against their group.
The United Nations said last month that the violence had killed more than 180 people, and the world body expressed concern over a wave of arrests of ethnic Amhara.
Local officials are being targeted for assassination across Amhara, “resulting in the temporary collapse of local state structures in many areas,” Ethiopia’s state-appointed human rights commission said last month.