BAHIR DAR: Dozens of people were killed in fighting during a foiled coup by a rogue state militia in Ethiopia’s Amhara region at the weekend, the regional government spokesman said on Wednesday, the first official report of significant clashes.
The militia attacked the police headquarters, ruling party headquarters and president’s office — where they executed three top officials — in Amhara’s regional capital of Bahir Dar on Saturday, Asemahagh Aseres told Reuters on the sidelines of a state burial for the officials who were killed.
The militia was a recently formed unit of the region’s security services. It had appealed for others to join, but its takeover were rebuffed, Asemahagh said.
“They are part of our police. They are not independent,” he told Reuters. “(But) most of the forces were not with them. They defended (us) very well.” The fact that the militia were state forces rather than independent raises the stakes for the government of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who has rolled out a package of economic and political reforms since taking office in April last year.
He has lifted a ban on political parties, released journalists, rebels and prisoners, and prosecuted officials accused of abuses. But his shake-up of the military and intelligence services has earned him powerful enemies.
His government is also struggling to contain discontent from Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.
Outbreaks of ethnic violence have displaced around 2.4 million people, according to the United Nations.