July 23, 2019
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Ethiopia's army chief shot by own bodyguard in failed coup

Addis Ababa, Jun 23 (EFE).- The chief of staff of the Ethiopian army was shot dead by his own bodyguard during a coup attempt, the prime minister's office said on Sunday.

General Seare Mekonnen and another military chief, General Gezai Abera, were shot and killed by Seare’s security in the capital Addis Ababa on Saturday night, according to a statement from prime minister Abiy Ahmed.

The president of the Amhara region Ambachew Mekonnen and his adviser Ezez Wasie were shot dead in their office in the regional capital, Bahir Dar.

Regional attorney general Migbaru Kebede was also wounded and was receiving medical treatment.

The prime minister’s office said on Sunday that the situation was “under full control of the federal government in collaboration with the regional government.”

"Many of the individuals involved in these attacks have been arrested and there is an ongoing operation to detain the others," it added in a statement and named Brigadier General Asaminew Tsige as the alleged ringleader of the uprising.

Head of security in the Amhara region, he was released after almost a decade behind bars thanks to an amnesty in February 2018.

Government spokesman Nigussu Tilahun said at a press conference in Addis Ababa on Sunday that the aim of the coup was to “destabilize our country” and that it was “not limited to the Amhara region.”

Internet access was restricted throughout the country in the wake of the unrest, a situation that persisted on Sunday, more than 15 hours after security forces said they had restored normalcy.

Special forces troops protected the prime minister’s office in the capital and groups of soldiers and police patrols were seen on the streets.

The government urged Ethiopians to be "guardians of peace and support all efforts to hold responsible individuals accountable."

The coup began late Saturday and was thwarted soon after by federal security forces.

"This illegal attempt should be condemned by all Ethiopians and the federal government has full capacity to overpower this armed group," the prime minister's office said in an initial statement.

In addition to Bahir Dar, shots were also heard in Addis Ababa, according to reports from the United States embassy in Ethiopia.

"The US Embassy is aware of reports of gunfire in Addis Ababa. Chief of Mission personnel are advised to shelter in place," it said in a statement.

In 2009, Asaminew was one of a number of soldiers arrested for allegedly plotting to overthrow the then prime minister, Meles Zenawi, for which he was sentenced to life imprisonment.

When Abiy, 42, came to power in April 2018, he restored his military credentials and granted him a military pension, as a measure of reconciliation in favor of lasting peace in Ethiopia.

Abiy’s leadership, which ended two years of protests against the previous government, has been praised both within the country and outside it for his democratic advances, which have led to the return of exiled dissidents as well as the arrest of dozens of senior military and intelligence officials.

On Jul. 9 Abiy and Eritrean President Isaias Afwerki signed a joint declaration of peace and friendship to pave the way for a thaw in diplomatic relations between the two countries, which had been suspended since the end of an armed conflict that began over border disputes dating back to the independence of Eritrea in 1993.

However, these same reforms and a more balanced distribution of power between the country's nine autonomous regions have also led to increased tensions between the various ethnic groups, with several spirals of violence in a nation of more than 100 million people.

Ethiopia, which has a population of around 100 million and more than 80 different ethnic groups, had the largest newly displaced population in the world in 2018, more than two million, owing to intercommunal violence. EFE

or-pms/pd/rb

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