Ethiopia security forces kill alleged coup leader

Ethiopia security forces kill alleged coup leader

The failed putsch on Saturday led to the killing of five senior officials, including the army chief of staff

Ethiopian security forces have killed the man accused of orchestrating a failed coup d’etat over the weekend.

General Asamnew Tsige allegedly led the coup attempt in the northern Amhara region and he was shot on Monday near the state capital Bahir Dar, the prime minister’s press secretary, Negussu Tilahun, told Reuters news agency.

Tilahun declined to give any other details.

“Asaminew Tsige – who has been in hiding since the failed coup attempt over the weekend – has been shot dead,” state broadcaster EBC reported.

The failed putsch on Saturday led to the killing of five senior officials, including the army chief of staff. The latest to die was the attorney-general of Amhara state, Migbara Kebede, who succumbed to his wounds on Monday.

Asamnew had been on the run with some of his supporters while other plotters have been arrested.

The reasons behind the attempted coup in the state remain unclear, although it may have been a reaction from Asamnew to a plan by state officials to rein him in after they were alarmed by reports of his ethnic rhetoric and recruitment of militias.

Brigadier-General Tefera Mamo, head of special forces in Amhara, told state television on Sunday “most of the people who attempted the coup have been arrested, although there are a few still at large”.

‘Hit squad’

Saturday’s violence unfolded in two separate attacks.

According to a government spokeswoman Billene Seyoum, a “hit squad” led by Asamnew burst into a meeting in the state offices in Bahir Dar – 500km north of the capital Addis Ababa – and shot dead regional government President Ambachew Mekonnen and his adviser Ezez Wassie.

“Several hours later, in what seems like a coordinated attack, the chief of staff of the national security forces, Seare Mekonnen, was killed in his home by his bodyguard in Addis Ababa,” Seyoum said.

Asamnew had told the Amhara people to arm themselves and prepare for fighting against other groups, in a video spread on Facebook a week earlier.

The general had been released from prison last year after receiving an amnesty for a similar coup attempt.

Long-simmering ethnic tensions in Amhara and other areas has surged since Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed launched reforms. At least 2.4 million people have fled fighting, according to the United Nations.

Access to the internet appeared to be blocked across Ethiopia on Monday, users reported. The streets of the capital Addis Ababa appeared calm.

Powerful enemies

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has pushed through sweeping changes since coming to power in April last year, making peace with Eritrea, reining in the security services, releasing political prisoners and lifting bans on some outlawed separatist groups.

The reforms in Africa’s second-most populous country have won him widespread international praise.

But his shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies at home, while his government is struggling to contain figures in Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.

Monday was a national day of mourning following Saturday’s coup attempt.

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA AND NEWS AGENCIES