Ethiopia’s army chief of staff and the regional president of the northern state of Amhara were killed in two related attacks when a general tried to seize control of Amhara in an attempted coup، the prime minister’s office said on Sunday، according to Reuters.
Amhara state president Ambachew Mekonnen and his advisor were shot dead and the state’s attorney general was wounded in Amhara’s capital of Bahir Dar on Saturday evening، according to a statement from the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
In a separate attack the same night، Ethiopia’s army Chief of Staff Seare Mekonnen and another retired general were shot dead in Seare’s home in Addis Ababa by his bodyguard. The two attacks were linked، the statement said، without giving details.
Abiy’s office named Amhara state security head General Asamnew Tsige as responsible for the foiled coup، without giving details of his whereabouts. Asamnew was released from prison last year، having been given an amnesty for a similar coup attempt، according to media reports.
Abiy took office just over a year ago and embarked on unprecedented reforms in Ethiopia، Africa’s second-most populous country and one of its fastest-growing economies.
But the premier’s shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies، while his government is struggling to rein in powerful figures in Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.
The shooting in Bahir Dar occurred when the state president - an ally of Abiy - was holding a meeting to decide how to put a stop to the open recruitment of ethnic Amhara militias by Asamnew، one Addis-based official told Reuters.
Asamnew had advised the Amhara people to arm themselves in preparation for fighting against other groups، in a video spread on Facebook a week earlier and seen by a Reuters reporter.
Abiy donned military fatigues to announce the attempted coup on state television on Saturday evening. Residents of Bahir Dar، about 500 kilometers (311 miles) northwest of Addis، said there was at least four hours of gunfire on Saturday evening and some roads had been closed off.
“The situation in the Amhara region is currently under full control by the Federal Government in collaboration with the regional government،” Abiy said in the statement on Sunday.
The U.S. Embassy tweeted it had heard reports of gunfire in Addis Ababa on Saturday night، and some residents told Reuters they heard six shots in a suburb near the country’s Bole International Airport around 9:30 p.m. local time.
The capital was quieter than usual on Sunday، with fewer cars or pedestrians on the streets.
Earlier 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.”