ADDIS ABABA: At least two senior Ethiopian officials were killed during an attempt by an army general to seize power in Ethiopia’s northern state of Amhara, state television reported on Sunday.
Speaking on state television late on Saturday, Prime Minister Ahmed Abiy announced there had been an attempted coup in Amhara’s capital Bahir Dar earlier that day and that Ethiopia’s Chief of Staff General Seare Mekonnen was among the casualties.
“He was shot by people who are close to him,” Abiy said. According to Abiy, regional government officials were in a meeting when a coup attempt occurred.
It was unclear whether Seare had survived. Both the head of Amhara’s regional government, Ambachew Mekonnen, and his adviser, were killed, state media reported early Sunday. The coup attempt was orchstrated by General Asamnew Tsige, the region’s head of security, state media reported.
Abiy said Seare had been shot while trying to fend off the attackers. The prime minister’s press secretary, Billene Seyoum, told Reuters later that it was unclear whether General Seare had been killed or wounded but a regional television broadcaster reported Seare had been killed, alongside another senior military official, Gize Abera.
Since coming to power last year, Abiy has tried to spearhead political reforms in the Horn of Africa nation of 100 million people where years of political violence led to the resignation of Abiy’s predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn.
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 is led by Ambachew Mekonnen.
“There are a few people who were killed while others were injured,” Abiy said.
The US Embassy said on Saturday that it was aware of reports of gunfire in Addis Ababa, and some residents told Reuters about hearing six shots ring out in a suburb near the country’s Bole International Airport around 9:30 p.m. local time on Saturday.
“Chief of Mission personnel are advised to shelter in place,” the Embassy said on its website.
People in many parts of Ethiopia reported being unable to access the Internet beginning late Saturday although the government has not stated whether it had cut it off. Authorities have cut off the Internet several times in the past for security and other reasons.
Early on Sunday, Brig. Gen. 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 neighborhoods 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.