The head of the African Union Commission called Wednesday for an investigation into deadly attacks in a restive area of western Ethiopia and urged the authorities to ensure civilians are protected. At least two massacres have reportedly taken place in recent weeks in western Oromia, with the Ethiopian authorites blaming the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) for the bloodshed — claims the rebel group have denied. AU Commission chair Moussa Faki Mahamat “has learnt with concern the reports of attacks in the Wellega zone of the Oromia region in western Ethiopia resulting in the deaths of hundreds of civilians”, the pan-African body said in a statement. Faki “deeply regrets the loss of life and calls for an investigation into these attacks”, it said. “He further urges the Federal Government of Ethiopia and regional authorities to undertake the necessary actions to protect all civilians, including minorities, and ensure that such incidents are prevented”. Inter-ethnic violence has been on the rise in recent months in Oromia — the largest and most populous region of Ethiopia. The situation there has until now largely been overshadowed by the conflict in the north between federal forces and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) that erupted in November 2020. Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said there had been a “massacre” by the OLA on Monday in Qellem Wollega and vowed to eliminate the group, which like the TPLF is branded a terrorist organisation by the Ethiopian government. The US-based Amhara Association of America said the attack targeted ethnic Amhara, while a survivor quoted by the regional state-run Amhara Media Corporation said at least 300 bodies had been collected in the village. Last month, the Ethiopian authorities accused the OLA of killing several hundred mainly Amhara people in the village of Tole in West Wollega, an area adjacent to Qellem Wollega.