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Dozens killed in Ethiopia ethnic clashes

At least 44 people were killed and 70,000 fled their homes amid violence in western Ethiopia, local officials say.

Addis Ababa

At least 44 people were killed during fighting between rival ethnic groups in western Ethiopia over the weekend, state affiliated media reported.

The clashes occurred on the border between the central Oromia and western Benishangul-Gumuz regions, local officials said on Tuesday.

Residents in Benishangul-Gumuz region said violence erupted on Friday after four local officials were killed during a visit to neighbouring Oromiya region.

The clashes between youths from rival ethnic groups armed with rocks and knives have forced more than 70,000 people to flee their homes, with security forces deployed to pacify the area, the Oromiya region's administration said.

READ MORE: Ethiopia: Thousands protest after deadly ethnic violence

Benishangul-Gumuz is one of Ethiopia's nine regional states, stretching to the border with Sudan.

Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed - the diverse country's first Oromo leader - came to office in April and turned politics on its head by making peace with long-term foe Eritrea, freeing prisoners and promising a string of sweeping economic and political reforms.

He also promised to ease ethnic tensions and steer the state away from a hardline security policy in place for decades.

Abiy has received praise from around the globe for his reformist agenda. However, a wave of communal violence, mostly over land issues, has marred the first few months of his rule.

At least 58 people were killed in September when fighting broke out in the capital, Addis Ababa, with those fleeing saying they were targeted by Oromo mobs because they are members of minority ethnic groups.

Nearly one million people have been forced from their homes in southern Ethiopia since clashes erupted there in April, according to UN agencies.

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