‘Many killed or hurt’ as blast hits Ethiopian PM’s rally

Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said several people have been killed in a grenade explosion at a huge rally he was attending in Addis Ababa on Saturday, agencies report.

As the new, reformist prime minister wearing a hat and T-shirt ended his speech and was waving at the crowd assembled in Meskel Square (pictured – Photo credit: @EthiopiaRise), a blast occurred forcing tens of thousands of Abiy’s supporters to run in panic.

Fitsum Arega, the prime minister’s chief of staff, said unidentified assailants launched a grenade attack at the rally.

Seyoum Teshome, one of the organisers of the rally, told dpa that the prime minister was the target as an individual tried to hurl the grenade towards the stage where Abiy sat.

A few Ethiopians were injured and a few others lost their lives, said Abiy without saying how many. He described the incident as a well-orchestrated but unsuccessful attack by forces who do not want to see Ethiopia united.

Abiy’s supporters were wearing shirts displaying his image with a message ‘One Love, One Ethiopia’. It was one of the biggest rallies Ethiopia has witnessed.

Abiy had announced several policy changes after taking office including release of thousands of prisoners, opening loss-making state units to private investment and implementing a peace deal with Eritrea to end a two-year war.

Abiy replaced Hailemariam Desalegn who was forced to quit in February amid a wave of anti-government protests that started in 2015 and left hundreds dead.