Un­rest con­tin­ues af­ter 52 dead in stam­pede

Jamaica Gleaner - - INTERNATIONAL NEWS -

IADDIS ABABA (AP): VI­O­LENCE FLARED again yes­ter­day in Ethiopia’s restive Oro­mia re­gion, where 52 peo­ple were killed a day ear­lier in a stam­pede when po­lice tried to dis­rupt an anti-gov­ern­ment protest dur­ing a mas­sive re­li­gious fes­ti­val.

Clashes be­tween se­cu­rity forces and pro­test­ers erupted Sun­day evening and con­tin­ued into Mon­day morn­ing in the towns of Bishoftu and Ambo, an Ethiopian gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial and wit­nesses told the As­so­ci­ated Press.

Rel­a­tives of those killed in Sun­day’s stam­pede flocked to Bishoftu, 45 kilo­me­tres (27 miles) south-east of the cap­i­tal, Ad­dis Ababa, rais­ing ten­sions, said Ni­mona Ne­gash, a driver of a small mo­torised taxi called a tuk-tuk.

The an­nual Ir­recha thanks­giv­ing fes­ti­val had drawn huge crowds, and the stam­pede oc­curred as peo­ple ran to es­cape po­lice fir­ing tear gas and rub­ber bul­lets and shoot­ing live rounds into the air af­ter anti-gov­ern­ment pro­test­ers ap­proached the stage where re­li­gious lead­ers were speak­ing.

At least 52 peo­ple were crushed to death. A wit­ness said some of those killed were still be­ing re­cov­ered from ditches, where they fell while try­ing to flee.

There also were re­ports of ar­rests.

“Some peo­ple tried to come out en masse this morn­ing to protest the deaths of hol­i­day­go­ers on Sun­day and also de­mand the re­lease of peo­ple ar­rested dur­ing the cel­e­bra­tions,” Ne­gash said. “To­day’s (yes­ter­day) pro­test­ers were peace­ful but dis­persed by po­lice vi­o­lently. I’m not aware of any deaths this morn­ing, but it was vi­o­lent. But I’m aware of live bul­lets used this morn­ing in other vicini­ties of this town.”

He said he wit­nessed seven bod­ies be­ing pulled from a deep ditch un­til he could no longer stand to watch.

DEADLY PROTESTS

The Oro­mia re­gion has been ex­pe­ri­enc­ing deadly anti-gov­ern­ment protests since Novem­ber 2015 as peo­ple call for wider po­lit­i­cal free­dom and the re­lease of de­tained op­po­si­tion fig­ures and jour­nal­ists.

Ethiopia’s gov­ern­ment, a close se­cu­rity ally of the West, has been ac­cused of quash­ing dis­sent and block­ing In­ter­net ac­cess. The US re­cently spoke out against what it called the ex­ces­sive use of force against pro­test­ers, call­ing the coun­try’s sit­u­a­tion “ex­tremely se­ri­ous”.

Ethiopia’s gov­ern­ment is ac­cus­ing the pro­test­ers. Pres­i­dent Mu­latu Teshome Wirtu, on a state visit to Italy on Mon­day, blamed the stam­pede on “the ac­tion of some hooli­gans”, Ital­ian news agency ANSA re­ported.

A woman re­ceives med­i­cal at­ten­tion af­ter a stam­pede at a re­li­gious fes­ti­val, in Bishoftu, Ethiopia, on Sun­day.

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