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ICC NOTE: This region of Ethiopia is close to the border of Somalia. On the borderlands of Somalia, Ethiopia, and Kenya reports of persecution of Christians among Islamic groups have increased, especially since the UIC took control of Mogadishu this past June.

Muslims, Christians clash in western Ethiopia , 5 Killed

For the full article go to: Sudan Tribune

Friday 6 October 2006

Oct 5, 2006 (ADDIS ABABA) — Five people were killed and many wounded in religious riots in western Ethiopia this week when Christians and Muslims clashed after a seasonal Orthodox festival, officials said Wednesday.

In addition to the casualties, two Christian churches were set ablaze and some 100 people forced to flee during the unrest that flared up Sunday near the town of Jimma, about 490 kilometers (305 miles) west of Addis Ababa, they said.

“Five people were killed and 100 people ran away after Muslims and Christians clashed around Jimma,” an Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council official said Thursday to the AP.

“According to our reports, the Muslims told the Christians they can’t celebrate Meskel because it is their [Muslim] land,” a senior official with the Ethiopian Orthodox Church official said on condition of anonymity.

Meskel, “cross” in Amharic, is an Orthodox festival marking the arrival of spring that is celebrated by the burning of a giant cross. It comes shortly after the Ethiopian New Year, that this year began September 11.

Meskel was celebrated last week.

A diplomatic source in Addis Ababa , also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed that the unrest had occurred in Dembi, a small village about 90 kilometers northwest of Jimma, but had no details on casualties.

“There was religiously motivated conflict in Dembi town … following the Meskel celebration,” the source said. “This incident was aggravated three days ago and some people were killed as a result of the conflict.”

An Orthodox church official said that ecclesiastical authorities were growing increasingly concerned about conflict between faiths. “We had a few problems last year around the same area but nobody died,” the official said. “This is a very worrying situation for us. These things never used to happen but they seem to be starting now.”

In May, Islamic youth in the eastern town of Jijiga, about 720 kilometers from the capital, stoned the homes and businesses of Christians after taking offense at what they said was the desecration of the Koran.

Jijiga is the capital of Ethiopia ’s Somali region. It lies on the border with lawless Somalia , where a powerful hardline Islamist movement has taken control of much of the south and center of the country.