An Ethiopian rebel group on Tuesday denied accusations it was responsible for a massacre of civilians in the restive far west of the country, and pointed the finger of blame instead at government-allied militias. Violence has been on the increase in the Oromia region in recent months, with one rights group suggesting the situation there had been overshadowed by the brutal conflict that erupted in Tigray 20 months ago. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a statement posted on Twitter on Monday that the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) had committed mass killings in the Qellem Wollega area of western Oromia, without giving further details. But OLA spokesman Odaa Tarbii retorted on Twitter: “The regime thinks it can just point fingers & escape accountability”. “Two divisions of the ENDF (Ethiopian National Defence Force) along with allied forces are occupying the towns of Qellem Walaga, including Machaara where civilians were killed en masse by the regime’s militias as security forces did nothing,” he wrote. “Both local & international entities have to demand independent investigations and hold Abiy and co accountable for their cruelty.” The OLA is a shadowy group that gained new prominence last year when it struck up an alliance with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that has been at war with government forces in northern Ethiopia. Both have been designated terrorist groups by Addis Ababa. Abiy on Monday vowed to “eradicate” the OLA, although he has opened the door to possible peace talks with the Tigrayan rebels. The US-based Amhara Association of America said Monday’s attack targeted ethnic Amharas in Mender 20 (Village 20) in Qellem Wollega in the west of Oromia, the largest and most populous region of Ethiopia. It said the killings began at dawn and lasted several hours.