The Ethiopian military has killed more than 40 men suspected of being linked to the massacre of at least 100 people, including children, in the Benishangul-Gumuz region, state media reported.
Five current and former government officials have also been arrested over the killings, the reports added.
The assailants fired at the homes of sleeping villagers and shot and stabbed people in Wednesday’s attack.
The attack came a day after Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed visited the region.
It is unclear who the attackers were, but they appeared to have targeted ethnic minority communities considered “settlers” in the region, rights group Amnesty International said.
Ethiopia has seen an increase in political, ethnic and religious violence in recent years.
It had the highest number of internally displaced persons in Africa in 2018 – approx. 1.8 million.
Conflicts have largely been driven by groups demanding more land and power, with attempts to drive people out whom they regard as outsiders.
Abiy described the massacre as tragic and said the government had deployed a force to the area to help find a solution to the conflict.
State media did not give the identity of the 42 killed in the military operation to chase the attackers.
It said weapons, including bows and arrows, had been seized, the reports say.
A deputy government minister was among the five people arrested in connection with the violence, state media reported.
However, it is unclear what exactly they are accused of.
What happened during the recent attack?
A spokesman for the Ethiopian State Human Rights Commission told the BBC that gunmen attacked the village of Bekoji in the western Benishangul-Gumuz area around 4am local time (1am) on Wednesday.
“They came down to a village and while their victims were sleeping, they burned their homes, but they shot and killed civilians,” Aaron Maasho said.
Amnesty International said it had spoken to five survivors and an official who reported that members of the Gumuz ethnic community attacked homes of people from the Amhara, Oromo and Shinasha communities.
“While Amnesty International is unable to verify the identity of the perpetrators, this attack appears to be the latest targeted at people with ethnic minorities in the area.
“With dozens of those still unjustified and homes still burning, the death toll is likely to rise and there needs to be an urgent investigation into this horrific attack,” it added in a statement.
What is the bigger picture?
Ethiopia is Africa’s most populous state after Nigeria. It has a population of more than 100 million divided into about 80 ethnic groups.
Sir. Abiy became prime minister in 2018 after mass protests forced his predecessor to resign.
He promised to end authoritarian rule and introduced comprehensive reforms that led to the disruption of political groups and the release of thousands of prisoners.
The end of state oppression also led to an increase in ethnic nationalism that erupted into violence.
Ethnic and political groups that felt oppressed under the previous regime demanded more autonomy for their regions and greater recognition of their language and cultural rights.
Is the violence related to the conflict in Tigray?
No, but the region’s now ousted ruling party, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), saw Mr Abiy as a threat to the “ethnic federalism” it had helped impose in Ethiopia after taking power at the end of a guerrilla war. in 1991.
It had created the revolutionary democratic front of the Ethiopian people (EPRDF), a coalition of four ethnically based parties, to rule at the center.
Sir. Abiy scrapped the coalition last year and replaced it with his new prosperity party (PP).
His supporters see the PP as helping to create unity by bringing together ethnic-based parties from across Ethiopia.
But unlike the other three parties in the coalition, the TPLF refused to dissolve and merge with the PP.
This led to a permanent break in the relationship between the two sides, and the TPLF was not represented in the federal government for the first time since 1991.
The party withdrew to its regional stronghold of Tigray and held regional elections in September in opposition to a federal-level decision to postpone all elections due to the outbreak of coronavirus.
This marked a significant increase in tensions, which eventually led to the outbreak of conflict in Tigray last month.
Hundreds or even thousands of people are believed to have been killed in this conflict, while around 50,000 have fled to neighboring Sudan.