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UPDATE 1- About 5000 Ethiopians flee to Kenya after botched military operation

(Updates number of refugees, other details)

By Aaron Maasho

ADDIS ABABA, March 13 (Reuters) - About 5,000 Ethiopians
have crossed into Kenya seeking refuge since March 10, the
Kenyan Red Cross Society said, after several civilians were
killed in what the Ethiopian military said was a botched
security operation targeting militants.

Ethiopian state media reported on Sunday that soldiers had
been deployed to an area near the town of Moyale in Oromiya, a
region that borders Kenya, in pursuit of Oromo Liberation Front
fighters who had crossed into the country from Kenya.

But faulty intelligence led soldiers to launch an attack
that killed nine civilians and injured 12 others, the Ethiopian
News Agency said.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Kenyan Red Cross Society said
"the population of refugees from Ethiopia continues to increase"
and was now estimated at 5,000.

Refugees from Ethiopia had begun to arrive in Kenya on
March 10, it said, adding that they were mostly women and
children, including "pregnant and lactating mothers, chronically
ill persons, those abled differently and the elderly".

Some of those fleeing had moved with their livestock,
compounding pressure on struggling relief agencies, the Red
Cross said.

The Oromo Liberation Front is a secessionist group which the
Ethiopian government describes as terrorist.

Outbreaks of violence have continued in Oromiya province
even after Ethiopia declared a six-month, nationwide state of
emergency last month following the resignation of Prime Minister
Hailemariam Desalegn.

A state official in the Oromiya region told Reuters on
condition of anonymity that tens of thousands of people have
also been internally displaced.

Ethiopia has said that five soldiers who took part in the
attack near Moyale have been "disarmed" and are under
investigation, while a high-level military delegation has been
dispatched to the area to inquire further into the incident.

The town's mayor was not immediately available to comment.

Desalegn said his unprecedented Feb. 15 resignation was
intended to smooth the way for reforms, following years of
violent unrest that threatened the ruling EPRDF coalition's hold
on Africa's second most populous nation.

His successor as premier and EPRDF chairperson is expected
to be named before the end of this month.
(Reporting by Aaron Maasho
Editing by Elias Biryabarema and Catherine Evans)

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