The Ethiopian government foiled a coup attempt in a region north of the capital, Addis Ababa, and the country’s military chief was shot dead, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said yesterday.
The failed coup in the Amhara region was led by a high-ranking military officer and others within the military, Abiy, wearing military fatigues, announced on the state broadcaster.
In a related development, the head of Ethiopia’s military was shot dead in the capital, a spokesman for the prime minister said.
Ethiopian general Seare Mekonnen was killed by his bodyguard at his residence in Addis Ababa, Nigussu Tilahun told a news conference.
A retired army general visiting the army chief at the time was also killed in the attack late on Saturday, Tilahun said.
The attack followed the violence in Amhara, where soldiers allegedly led by a renegade brigadier raided a meeting of the regional government and killed officials including the region’s president.
Most of the perpetrators of the attack in Bahir Dar, capital of Amhara, have been apprehended and others are being hunted down, the spokesman said.
The attack in Bahir Dar and the assassination of the army chief are linked, he said.
The US embassy on Saturday reported gunfire in the capital and urged people to be careful.
In Bahir Dar, residents told reporters that they could still hear gunshots late into the night.
The country’s Internet appeared to be shut down yesterday.
The attempted coup is the latest challenge to Abiy, who was elected last year as a reform-minded young leader.
He has captured the imagination of many with his political and economic reforms, including the surprise acceptance of a peace agreement with rival Eritrea, the opening of major state-owned sectors to private investment and the release of thousands of prisoners including opposition figures once sentenced to death.
Along the way he has faced some challenges.
In June last year, only months in office, an attempt to hurl a grenade at Abiy caused a deadly explosion at a massive rally in support of the sweeping changes in Ethiopia.
Nine police officers were arrested over the incident, state media reported.
In October last year, rebellious Ethiopian soldiers protested over pay, causing a security incident in the capital.
Ethiopia’s army is one of the largest in Africa.
The country is a key regional security ally for the US and others in the restive Horn of Africa region.
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