Ethiopia: Demonstrators target PM with landmine bomb

Written by Staff Writer at CNN Ethiopia was already on the brink of chaos before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office. Dissident groups and war veterans formed an alliance under the banner “Gudrem” (Gathering)….

Ethiopia: Demonstrators target PM with landmine bomb

Written by Staff Writer at CNN

Ethiopia was already on the brink of chaos before Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed took office.

Dissident groups and war veterans formed an alliance under the banner “Gudrem” (Gathering). Under this umbrella, locals planned a campaign of violence to destabilize the state.

They were driven underground in order to avoid arrest. Abiy’s recent reforms, however, may now offer them a place in the open.

In a Friday show of strength, the Gudrem militia struck targets in Addis Ababa, catching authorities by surprise. As hundreds of people began running away from the blitz of gunfire, police didn’t immediately realize what had happened.

A man walks in front of the location where a landmine exploded on Monday, killing three people in the area of Melgeor. As many as 200 people are feared dead. It took rescue workers over five hours to remove the bomb and rescue the injured and dead. AFP/Getty Images

As chaos ensued and police fired tear gas, numerous roadblocks and multiple clashes with protesters ensued.

In the end, the protesters broke out into a running battle with the police, resulting in a crush of hundreds of people.

Deaths and injuries were confirmed, though the number is still unclear.

More than a dozen people were arrested, accused of being “terrorists,” while at least five killed were allegedly allied with the Gudrem.

Gudrem members were reportedly paid $2.8 million dollars to ensure that protests do not escalate. According to the police chief, the Gudrem “destroys the nation’s security, ruins the nation’s economy and destabilizes the nation.”

This was the second day of protests; demonstrators have blocked a bridge in the capital. AFP/Getty Images

Friday’s events also saw a truck bomb go off at the government district of Melgeor, which left three dead and an estimated 19 injured.

Four additional people were injured when demonstrators threw stones and fired shots in the air.

The police initially blamed the Gudrem for the violence, saying that “the Gudrem threw the explosives into a government building.”

The Gudrem denies these allegations.

“The Gudrem militia is not responsible for throwing explosives that resulted in deaths in Melgeor,” said Hemerkan Negatu, a member of the vigilante group.

“The media who make irresponsible remarks about the Gudrem are attempting to destroy the coalition. By doing so, they are sabotaging national peace.”

Hemerkan said this situation could have been avoided if the security forces had surrendered to the demonstrators “instead of killing innocent Ethiopian citizens for their decisions.”

The official police report says the body of a protestor was caught in a police vehicle. AFP/Getty Images

Residents initially dispersed the protests. But after police used tear gas and opened fire, demonstrations then swept through the city and outlying areas.

A 14-year-old was among those injured.

As the day progressed, the Gudrem could be seen defying the security force with an armored and masked vehicle.

Other opposition groups have also been released from prison. The protesters claim these members were imprisoned for their political activism.

Despite Friday’s violence, Abiy moved swiftly to placate the nation.

He went on national television to announce an end to extrajudicial killings and to the country’s emergency rule, which he reinstated a few weeks ago after the government clamped down on dissent.

Abiy’s government has also closed its military bases and lifted restrictions on political activities.

Protests over the last year have been taking place in the Oromiya region, the hotbed of the most serious protests.

In November 2017, more than 200 people were killed by security forces as they protested about land rights.

State institutions have also been shaken, following a shake-up which saw Abiy chairing the cabinet.

With these recent measures, protests have retreated significantly. But they remain a flashpoint in an already volatile political climate.

The government’s next move will be to push forward with reforms to the political climate and to address economic grievances within the country.

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