Ethiopia’s Army Chief of Staff Killed During an Attempted Coup

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

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

But his press secretary, Billene Seyoum, told Reuters 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.

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.”

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.

He has released political prisoners, lifted 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, a lecturer in law at 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.

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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