ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopia’s army chief was shot dead by his bodyguard just hours after an attempted coup in Amhara state left the regional president and another top adviser dead, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Sunday.
Spokeswoman Billene Seyoum told journalists a “hit squad” led by Amhara’s security chief Asaminew Tsige burst into a meeting on Saturday afternoon and shot regional President Ambachew Mekonnen and another top official.
The men were “gravely injured in the attack and later died of their wounds,” she said.
“Several hours later in what seems like a coordinated attack, the chief of the staff of the national security forces Seare Mekonnen was killed in his home by his bodyguard.”
Also shot dead was a retired general who had been visiting him, Billene added.
The bodyguard has been apprehended while Asaminew is still on the loose, sources said.
Analysts said the incident showed the seriousness of the political crisis in Ethiopia, where efforts by Abiy to loosen the iron-fisted grip of his predecessors and push through reforms has unleashed a wave of unrest.
“These tragic incidents unfortunately demonstrate the depth of Ethiopia’s political crisis,” said International Crisis Group analyst William Davison.
“It is now critical that actors across the country do not worsen the instability by reacting violently or trying to exploit this unfolding situation for their own political ends,” the expert said.
Since coming to power last year, Abiy has tried to spearhead political reforms in the Horn of Africa nation of 100 million people, where years of political violence led to the resignation of Abiy’s predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn.
Abiy has released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses, but his government is battling mounting violence.
Ethnic bloodshed — long held in check by the state’s iron grip — has flared up in many areas, including Amhara.