Two die in rally supporting Ethiopian prime minister

An injured man is helped by others as security officers gather at the scene of an explosion during a massive rally to support the country's new reformist prime minister, Abiy Ahmed in Meskel Square in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on Saturday. The health minister on Sunday said two people had died in the explosion. Photo by EPA

June 24 (UPI) — Two people have died from an explosion at a political rally for new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed on Saturday, the government said Sunday.

Ethiopia’s health minister, Amir Aman, posted on Twitter statistics from the explosion: 44 people remained in hospitals, including five in critical condition, and 156 injures.

On Saturday, Solomon Ali of the Ethiopia Red Cross Society told CNN on Saturday at least 114 people were hospitalized because of the explosion.

Abiy, who sworn in as prime minister in April after his predecessor Hailemariam Desalegn unexpectedly resigned in February, spoke at the rally in the capital of Addis Ababa, but was unharmed by the blast, which was thought to be from a grenade thrown amid thousands of people in Meskel Square.

He was whisked away after the explosion.

On Sunday, Abiy described it as an “unsuccessful attempt by forces who do not want to see Ethiopia united.”

Because of security lapses, the capital’s deputy chief of police is in custody and eight police officers also have been detained and are under investigation for failing to secure the site.

He is also the country’s first leader from the ethnic Oromo group.

On Friday, an Ethiopian rebel group, Ginbot 7, suspended armed resistance against the government, saying the prime minister’s reforms had given it hope that “genuine democracy” may be “a real possibility.

The U.S. embassy in Addis Ababa also condemned the blast, tweeting: “Violence has no place as Ethiopia pursues meaningful political and economic reforms.”


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