A ‘hit squad’ led by Amhara’s security chief Asaminew Tsige burst into a meeting on Saturday, injuring regional president Ambachew Mekonnen and another top official, who both died of their wounds.
Ethiopia’s army chief was shot dead by his bodyguard just hours after an attempted coup in Amhara state left the regional president and another top adviser dead, a spokesperson for the prime minister said on Sunday.
Spokesperson Billene Seyoum told journalists a “hit squad” led by Amhara’s security chief Asaminew Tsige burst into a meeting on Saturday afternoon, injuring regional president Ambachew Mekonnen and another top official, who both died of their wounds.
Later that evening in what appeared a “co-ordinated attack”, army chief Seare Mekonnen and a retired general who was visiting him, were killed by his bodyguard, said Billene.
On Saturday, the government said there had been a failed coup attempt against the head of regional government in Amhara, one of Ethiopia’s nine federal states.
The developments underscore the challenges facing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, as he tries to spearhead political reforms amid widespread unrest in the Horn of Africa nation of 100 million people.
Appearing on state TV late on Saturday, Abiy said some of officials of the Amhara government were in a meeting when a coup attempt occurred.
“There are a few people who were killed while others were injured,” Abiy said.
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 neighborhoods and some roads had been closed off.
Since coming to power in April last year, Abiy has pushed to open up the once isolated, security-obsessed country. His government has released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses.
However, ethnic violence – 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.
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.