No less than 54 people have been massacred in a school yard in western Ethiopia, survivors have claimed in an attack targeted at an ethnic minority.

Amnesty International said the attack was carried out by a rebel group who gathered the elderly, women and children to a meeting before opening fire.

The rights organisation added that federal soldiers had left the area hours before attackers moved in and gunned down ethnic Amharas.

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Survivors say they have 54 counted bodies in the school yard in the far western part of Oromia, and that it is the latest attack on ethnic minorities in the country.

Amhara region’s affiliated broadcaster, Amhara Mass Media Agency, quoted one survivor as saying the armed group had gathered 200 people for a meeting around 5pm and then started shooting at them.

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They claimed a school and 120 houses had also been burned.

In a statement, Amnesty said: ‘Militants gathered people who did not manage to flee, mainly women, children and the elderly, and killed them.’

Many hid in a forest nearby to get away from their attackers, who are said to have dragged people to the school. One victim told the human rights group he found the bodies of his brother, sister-in-law and three children in the schoolyard with bullet wounds.

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Survivors of the attack in the Guliso District of West Wellega Zone told Amnesty that federal troops had withdrawn unexpectedly and around 60 rebels arrived hours later, identifying themselves as the Oromo Liberation Army (OLA) and announcing that they controlled the area, near the border with South Sudan.

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