Ethiopia arrests 47 people over party leader’s murder

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Ethiopian security forces say that they had arrested 47 suspects after the murder of a leader of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s ruling party, accusing him of plotting to overthrow the regime.

Girma Yeshitila, leader of the Welfare Party in the recently troubled northern region of Amhara, was killed with four others in an attack on Thursday.

The 47 people arrested are suspected terrorists and were found in possession of weapons, bombs and satellite communications equipment, security forces said in a statement carried by public broadcaster EBC.

“The suspects worked together locally and in foreign countries with the aim of taking control of the regional government in order to overthrow the federal government by assassinating senior Amhara officials,” the security forces said in their statement.

The murder of Mr Girma was carried out by these “extremist forces”, the statement added, without specifying the date of the arrests.

A member of the executive committee of the 45-member Prosperity Party, Mr Girma was frequently targeted on social networks by Amhara nationalists, who called him a “traitor” because of his proximity to Mr Abiy.

According to the Amhara regional government, “irregular forces” attacked the vehicles carrying Mr Girma, his bodyguards and family members on Thursday as he headed to Debre Birhan, a major town in the region, about 100km northeast of Addis Ababa.

In April, Amhara was the scene of several days of armed unrest triggered by the federal government’s desire to dismantle the region’s “special forces”, illegal paramilitary units set up by the Amhara authorities, as by those of several other regions of Ethiopia over the past fifteen years.

Anger is all the greater in part of the Amhara population because Amhara “special forces” and the Fano, local “self-defence” militias, provided crucial assistance to the federal army in the conflict that opposed it from November 2020 onwards to the authorities of Tigray, which had entered into a rebellion against Addis Ababa.

Despite the peace agreement signed in November in Pretoria, Amhara and Fano “special forces” still control the western part of Tigray, which they dispute with the Tigrayans.

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