By George Whitten, BosNewsLife Senior International Correspondent with BosNewsLife Africa Service
ADDIS ABABA/WASHINGTON (BosNewsLife)-- Twenty-five Muslims, backed by government forces, burned down ten Christian homes, leaving eighty Christians homeless in southwestern Ethiopia, a Washington-based rights' group said Thursday, September 30.
International Christian Concern (ICC) said the attackers destroyed homes in Goda district of the city of Jimma, where they also set fire to their barns, killing their animals and destroying their harvest. The attack happened July 15, but news of the violence just emerged, ICC suggested.
"The assailants asked the Christians to leave their homes and told them, 'We will show you what we are going to do to your homes, and if you inform this to anyone we will burn you the way we burn your homes.' Then they set the Christian homes on fire and began celebrating by singing near the burned homes," ICC quoted a Christian leader, who apparently spoke anonymously due to security concerns.
The attackers allegedly prevented the victims from leaving the village for 16 days. Finally, one of the Christians managed to escape and report the attacks to district officials after walking for 16 hours, according to ICC investigators. The police temporarily detained the person who led the attack and a local official, but they were later released on bail, ICC said.
Muslims involved in the violence have reportedly the Christians from rebuilding their homes and they now living under trees. There was no immediate comment from the local government.
The violence follows a series of reported incidents in Jimma, including in October 2006, when a Muslim mob killed six Christians, and June this year, when Muslims destroyed coffee farms belonging to two Christian converts from Islam, ICC said.
Christians have also complained that Muslim officials deny them land for building churches and cemeteries in Jimma, a heavily Muslim city. Over 80 percent of Jimma's population is Muslim, according to a 1994 national census.
ICC said in a statement that it has urged Christians around the world to call the Ethiopian Embassy in their country "and bring the attacks against the Christians to their attention and demand that all the perpetrators be brought to justice."