Addis Ababa: At least 17 people have died in communal violence triggered by a personal dispute in western Ethiopia, a report said Monday.

The AMMA news agency said there were clashes Saturday and Sunday pitting the Gumuz ethnic group against the Amhara, the second largest in the country, in Benishangul Gumuz state.

The director of communications, Asmahegn Asres, in neighbouring Amhara state, told AMMA that 11 Amhara and six Gumuz people were killed in the clashes and the toll could mount.

"The death toll could rise even further as there is a search mission under way to find missing bodies, with federal police and army units deployed in the area to prevent a recurrence of the violence," the director was quoted as saying.

"Around 25 houses have been burned in the ethnic violence which started as a personal dispute between two daily labourers," he added.

Communal clashes, typically sparked by disputes over land, are common in Ethiopia where a fast growing population has added to pressures on farmers in a country of sharp ethnic divisions.