Armed attackers have killed at least 15 people in western Ethiopia, according to the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission (EHRC).

Four of the victims in Friday’s pre-dawn assault in Benishangul-Gumuz region’s Metekel Zone were women, the EHRC said in a statement, expressing “deep alarm” over a “surge in attacks against civilians” in the area.

At least two instances of violence earlier this month in the same region bordering Sudan had resulted in the killing of civilians and forced at least 300 people from their homes.

“Civilians are being subjected to repeated attacks with unmitigated cruelty in Benishangul-Gumuz,” said Daniel Bekele, the head of the EHRC.

“Federal and regional authorities should take the required steps to enforce the rule of law and bring perpetrators to account,” Bekele added.

The EHRC did not say who was behind the attacks.

It said the Ethiopian National Defense Force engaged in a shoot-out with fighters in the area and was able to restore calm by Friday afternoon.

One person sustained non life-threatening wounds, it added.

The attack poses the latest security challenge for the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

Abiy, who came to power in 2018, has implemented sweeping reforms which have won him international praise but also lifted the lid on long-repressed tensions between the country’s many ethnic groups.

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