Several people killed in blast at rally supporting new Ethiopian leader

Lester Mason
June 23, 2018

"An individual tried to hurl the grenade toward a stage where the prime minister was sitting, but was held back by the crowd".

While it remains unclear how deep Abiy's support runs within the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF), his actions thus far represent dramatic shifts in the power balance within Africa's second-most populous country.

The explosion happened at the end of a massive rally called to express support for Abiy and his administration. Footage showed Abiy being rushed from the scene by security guards.

"The country's ports belong to Somali people, we will never allow anybody to take them, we urge the public not to be misled", the prime minister said.

The prime minister in an address to the country shortly after being hurried to safety said "a few people" had been killed and others injured.

"The prime minster was the target", Seyoum Teshome, a rally organizer, told the AP. A senior police officer said 100 were wounded. "Then we heard the explosion".

The prime minister recently called for all armed groups to lay down their arms and return to the country.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is addressing the nation as police investigate the blast that occurred just after he finished speaking and was waving to the crowd of tens of thousands. Killing is a sign of defeat.

Numerous protesters have complained of marginalisation.

Earlier, the government said it had unblocked 264 websites and TV channels.

An Associated Press news agency reporter saw more than a dozen injured people at the rally.

The blast came just as the master of ceremonies was welcoming viewers from overseas and said in English "this is the day that Ethiopia has become proud". "I'm very emotional right now", said supporter Mulugeta Sema, who wore a T-shirt with the new leader's image and spoke before the blast.

The United States has been among those in the global community expressing support for the dramatic changes in Ethiopia, a key security ally in a turbulent region with neighbours including Somalia and South Sudan.

The U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa said: "Violence has no place as Ethiopia pursues meaningful political and economic reforms".

Not everyone has cheered the changes. Some Ethiopians near the border with Eritrea have protested against the peace deal.

Mr Tsege recently told the BBC that his release came after Prime Minister Abiy had threatened to resign.

Mr Abiy is the country's first leader from the ethnic Oromo group, which has been at the centre of almost three years of anti-government protests that have left hundreds of people dead.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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