International

Ethiopia rally attacker targeted PM: organiser

The organiser of a pro-government
rally in Ethiopia that was hit by a grenade blast Saturday said the attacker
had aimed for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed but was stopped by police.

Seyoum Teshome told AFP he watched from the stage as a scuffle erupted
when someone attempted to hurl a grenade towards the area where Abiy had just
delivered a speech to a crowd of tens of thousands in Addis Ababa.

“At that moment, four or more police, they jumped on him and during that
scuffle the grenade went off,” Seyoum said.

Ethiopia’s government has given few details of the incident, which Abiy
blamed on “anti-peace forces”.

The attack injured 83 people, according to an aide to the prime minister,
and marred an event aimed at building support for Abiy, who has pushed an
aggressive reform agenda since taking office in April.

Seyoum, a blogger and university professor who spent weeks in prison
earlier this year during a four-month state of emergency, said most of the
injuries came during the pandemonium that erupted after the blast.

Thousands of people in Meskel Square rushed the stage as Abiy made a hasty
getaway.

“Most of them were injured but not due to the grenade, but rather it was
the stampede, it was just running away from that spot,” Seyoum said.

Abiy was elected leader of the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary
Democratic Front (EPRDF) after his predecessor’s February resignation that
prompted the emergency declaration.

The first prime minister in modern Ethiopia from the country’s largest
ethnic group the Oromo, Abiy has announced major reforms such as liberalising
the economy and pushing for a rapprochement with neighbour and arch-enemy
Eritrea.

But the EPRDF remains unpopular in many parts of Ethiopia, and some people
at the rally chanted anti-government slogans after they stormed the stage.