Ethiopia witnessed a series of attacks on four mosques on Saturday, an incident that has shaken Muslims in the country into protests. Ethiopia's Mota, east Gojjam Zone of Amhara regional state, had two mosques completely destroyed and two others seriously damaged due to an intentional fire.
Vandals also target a Muslim-owned business center and burned it down, local police officers confirmed.
In an official statement on the matter, the Ethiopian Islamic Affairs Supreme Council confirmed that properties owned by Muslims were "deliberately targeted" in the attacks.
Footage capturing crowds of people cheering as mosques burned in the city went viral on social media, adding insult to injury, according to Addis Standard.
The latest attack on Muslims in the country is believed to have been triggered by a fire that broke out in one of the churches belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo Church, located in Amhara. The cause of the fire - which left the place of worship partially damaged - is not known. However, false rumors that spread in the wake of the blaze directly incited the attacks on the mosques.
Muslim and Christian leaders in the country have since spoken out against the incidents targeting Ethiopia's Muslims.
The official condemnations were led by Ethiopia's PM Abiy Ahmed, who deemed the attacks as attempts by extremists to break down the country's "rich history of religious tolerance and coexistence."
The blatant actions also sparked protests among the country's Muslim population, who took to the streets to condemn the violence. Rallies were held in Jimma city and several other cities and regions.
Not the first time similar attacks take place in the country
In February, five mosques were set on fire in two separate attacks reported the country's South Gondar zone, located in Amhara regional state. At the time, Ethiopia's Islamic Affairs Council condemned the incident while online users launched campaigns to help fund rebuilding processes.
Incidents that reflect sectarian strife are on the rise in the country where Muslims make up around a third of the population, according to the latest statistics. Christians account for 40 percent of Ethiopia's 110 million people.
The country's current PM is the son of a Muslim father and a Christian mother; his family is an example of the coexistence that existed among Ethiopians in the past decades. In October, Ahmed won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts in securing peace between Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea, yet he continues to face tensions in his own country.
Critics say this stems from his decision to change the country's current government structure.
At the time being, the local government is based on a coalition of different regional parties called the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front's (EPRDF). Ahmed is working on creating a centralized system that can draw support from every region, but his plan is escalating tensions among regional leaders who are afraid of losing their individual power.
In the past 18 months, his political schemes "have led to inter-ethnic clashes, which have killed hundreds and displaced millions across the country."