Ethiopia’s army chief of staff shot amid regional coup attempt

The head of Ethiopia’s Amhara state and his adviser were killed during a coup attempt in their state, state media reported on Sunday.

Ambachew Mekonnen and his adviser Ezez Wasie were attacked in their offices on Saturday, state media reported, without saying who was responsible.

Earlier, Ethiopia prime minister announced that the country’s army chief of staff was also shot while trying to thwart the attempted coup in Amhara, a federal state north of the capital Addis Ababa.

Speaking on state television late on Saturday, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said General Seare Mekonnen was one of several casualties.

Ethiopia unrest

Ethiopia Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed condemned the unrest in appearance on state [Reuters]

But his press secretary, Billene Seyoum, told Reuters news agency later that it was unclear whether General Seare had been killed or wounded.

“He was shot by people who are close to him,” Abiy said.

The prime minister said the general had been trying to prevent plotters carrying out a coup in Amhara state, one of Ethiopia’s nine federal states.

The US embassy issued alerts about reported gunfire in the capital, Addis Ababa, and violence around Amhara’s main city, Bahir Dar.

#Ethiopia: The U.S Embassy is aware of reports of gunfire in Addis Ababa. Chief of Mission personnel are advised to shelter in place. https://t.co/ULRfCXIEOd pic.twitter.com/ZiB4UFjHlZ

— Travel – State Dept (@TravelGov) June 22, 2019

Since coming to power last year, Abiy has tried to spearhead political reforms, to open up the once isolated, security-obsessed country of 100 million people on the Horn of Africa.

Abiy has released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses, but his government is battling mounting violence.

Ethnic bloodshed – long held in check by the state’s iron grip – has flared up in many areas, including Amhara, where the regional government was led by Ambachew Mekonnen.

“Since Abiy Ahmed took power and the country moved towards democratisation … there have been different forms of mobilisations, by different actors, particularly nationalists.” Awol Allo, from Keele University, told Al Jazeera. 

“[In] Amhara regional state, there is this feeling that they were marginalised, and these individuals that were suspected to be behind the coup recently said that Amhara people have never been subordinated.. so there is this sense of grievance and victimhood that is driving the nationalist movements,” he added. 

According to Abiy, regional government officials were in a meeting when a coup attempt occurred.

“There are a few people who were killed while others were injured,” Abiy said.

A regional television broadcaster affiliated with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a member of Abiy’s coalition, reported Seare had been killed, alongside another senior military official, Gize Abera.

Early on Sunday, Brigadier General Tefera Mamo, the head of special forces in Amhara, told state television that “most of the people who attempted the coup have been arrested, although there are a few still at large.”

Residents in Amhara’s capital Bahir Dar said late on Saturday there was gunfire in some neighbourhoods and some roads had been closed off.

Ethiopia is due to hold a national parliamentary election next year. Several opposition groups have called for the polls to be held on time despite the unrest and displacement.

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