Dozens killed dur­ing stam­pede at re­li­gious cel­e­bra­tion

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

BISHOFTU (AP): SEV­ERAL DOZEN peo­ple died in a stam­pede Sun­day morn­ing when a re­li­gious cel­e­bra­tion in Ethiopia turned into an anti-gov­ern­ment protest that led po­lice to fire tear gas and rub­ber bul­lets.

An es­ti­mated two mil­lion peo­ple were at­tend­ing the an­nual Ir­recha event in Bishoftu town south­east of the cap­i­tal, Addis Ababa. The event took place in one of the coun­try’s most sen­si­tive re­gions, Oro­mia, which has seen sev­eral months of some­times deadly protests de­mand­ing wider free­doms.

Ethiopia’s gov­ern­ment ac­knowl­edged deaths dur­ing the event and, through a spokesman, blamed “peo­ple that pre­pared to cause trou­ble” for the chaos. The spokesman’s of­fice said many peo­ple were taken to hos­pi­tals, but it did not pro­vide any fig­ures.

Wit­nesses said po­lice dis­persed pro­test­ers chant­ing anti-gov­ern­ment slo­gans as they pushed to­wards a stage where re­li­gious lead­ers were speak­ing. Some threw rocks and plas­tic bot­tles. As fes­ti­val go­ers fled, some were crushed in nearby ditches.

An As­so­ci­ated Press re­porter saw peo­ple hold­ing up crossed wrists in a pop­u­lar ges­ture of anti-gov­ern­ment protest and po­lice fir­ing tear gas. The re­porter also saw sev­eral in­jured peo­ple.

The months of antigov­ern­ment protests in sev­eral parts of Ethiopia and the some­times harsh gov­ern­ment re­sponse had raised in­ter­na­tional con­cern. The United States re­cently spoke out against what it called the ex­ces­sive use of force against pro­test­ers.

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