At least 83 injured in blast at rally for new Ethiopian leader

At least 83 injured in blast at rally for new Ethiopian leader

Ethiopian security forces intervene after the blast went off at the rally in Meskel Square

At least 83 people have been injured following an explosion at a rally in Addis Ababa for Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister, but no fatalities have been confirmed despite earlier reports according to officials.

Earlier reports from the rally had indicated that “several people” had been killed in the blast at the rally, which was attended by thousands.

The rally was being held in Ethiopia’s capital in support of the 41-year-old ex-soldier Abiy Ahmed who has outlined a series of radical reforms since taking office in April.

Mr Ahmed had earlier said in a televised address: “A few Ethiopians were injured. There are a few people who lost their lives.”

Fitsum Arega, Mr Abiy’s chief of staff, said on Twitter that no deaths had been reported but six people were in a critical condition.

The deputy head of Addis Ababa’s police commission told the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporation that 100 people had been injured in the attack, 15 of them “severely”.

The blast occurred minutes after Mr Abiy finished his speech at the capital’s Meskel Square

He described the incident as “an unsuccessful attempt by forces who do not want to see Ethiopia united.”

“It was a grenade. Someone tried to hurl it to the stage where the prime minister was in,” Seyoum Teshome, a member of the organising committee, said.

“I saw some five people injured following the blast,” he added.

Mr Abiy stunned Ethiopians this month by saying he was prepared to fully implement a peace deal with Eritrea signed in 2000 and meant to end a two-year war between the country and its neighbour that devolved into a stalemate resulting in huge military build-up by both countries.

It is one of many policy shifts announced since Mr Abiy took office, moves that could reshape Ethiopia’s relations with its neighbours and have equally dramatic impacts inside the country of 100 million people.