Fresh fighting erupted in the second-biggest town of Ethiopia’s turbulent Amhara region as militiamen clashed with the military over government plans to disarm local forces.
Fighters from a militia called Fano fought against military units Sunday in the town of Gondar, an important tourist and commercial hub, residents told The Associated Press. “It was very heavy,” said one person reached by telephone who declined to give their name because of safety concerns.
Calm had mostly been restored by Monday morning, with the military back in control of the town, although sporadic gunfire could still be heard, residents said. Shops were shut and the streets were empty.
Other areas of Amhara, including the regional capital Bahir Dar and Lalibela, another important tourist town, did not see fighting, residents said Monday.
Violence gripped Amhara, Ethiopia’s second-most populous state, in early August, with Fano fighters seizing control of several major towns and protesters blocking roads. The military retook control after several days.
AIRSTRIKE IN ETHIOPIA LEAVES AT LEAST 26 DEAD, OVER 55 OTHERS INJURED
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In response to the unrest, the government blocked internet access and imposed a state of emergency. The fighting sparked fears of a new civil war following the conflict in the neighboring Tigray region, which ended with a cease-fire in November.
The violence was sparked by a plan initiated in April to disarm the region’s forces, which the government says represent a threat to Ethiopia’s constitutional order. The Amhara ethnic group says they need the forces for protection, citing attacks against their group.
The United Nations said last month the violence had killed over 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.