ADDIS ABABA. — The number of officials detained in connection with Saturday’s bomb attack in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa has reached about 30, state TV reported. Addis Standard late yesterday wrote wrote on its Twitter handle @addisstandard: “Senior security & civilian officials are asserting that the incident is being treated as an ‘assassination attempt’ on the life of PM #AbiyAhmed.”
Meanwhile, a second person has died after the grenade attack at the political rally addressed by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, as authorities arrested police officials and other suspects.
The explosion on Saturday struck a large rally by supporters of Ethiopia’s new, reformist prime minister, wounding scores, including five who are in critical condition.
Health Minister Amir Aman confirmed yesterday that two people had been killed from the attack and 156 wounded.
“I’m so sorry to learn that we have lost another Ethiopian victim of yesterday’s (Saturday’s) attack who was in ICU at Black Lion Hospital,” Aman said on Twitter. “My sincere sympathy and condolences to the family, friends and all Ethiopians.”
Prime Minister Abiy had just wrapped up his speech at the capital’s Meskel Square before tens of thousands of people on Saturday when the explosion went off, sending droves of supporters towards the stage as the prime minister left hurriedly and was taken to safety.
By end of day Saturday, nine police officials, including the deputy head of the Addis Ababa police commission, had been arrested over alleged security lapses.
“Ethiopian police have confirmed that nine policemen have been arrested because of what they are calling gross negligence; for not putting enough security measures in place to make sure that such an incident did not occur,” said Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Adow reporting from Addis Ababa.
Six other suspects were also being held over links to the attack, but no group had claimed responsibility for the blast.
In an address broadcast afterwards on state television, Prime Minister Abiy said the blast was orchestrated by groups who wanted to undermine the rally but did not name them.
“The people who did this are anti-peace forces. You need to stop doing this. You weren’t successful in the past and you won’t be successful in the future.”
The blast has sent shockwaves across the country as the new prime minister, who enjoys a lot of political support, especially among the younger generation, seeks to enforce his reformist agenda.
Since assuming office in April, PM Abiy has introduced a number of reforms and has overseen the release of jailed dissidents and moved to liberalise the economy.
He has also made peace overtures with aggrieved opposition groups, as well as neighbouring Eritrea.
“Abiy’s effort to move the country forward has angered those who for a very long time maintained a stronghold on the country’s politics and economy,” Mohammed Ademo, political commentator and founder of OPride.com, an independent news website on Ethiopia, told Al Jazeera.
“They are trying to scare people and undermine the prime minister so they can send a signal that he is not capable of stabilising the country,” Ademo added.
“Many Ethiopians are shocked that people would go to such lengths to stop what they see as a really positive move – the reforms they say this country really needs,” said Al Jazeera’s Adow.
The Ethiopian grenade attack happened hours before a bomb exploded at White City Stadium in Bulawayo, soon after President Mnangagwa who is also the Zanu-PF presidential candidate in the July 30 harmonised election had finished addressing thousands of jubilant supporters. The bomb exploded as President Mnangagwa, his Vice Presidents and other senior members of the ruling Zanu-PF party were leaving the stage. At least 49 people were injured. — Addis Standard/Al-Jazeera/Herald Reporter.
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