No fewer than nine people have died in Ethiopia after a clash erupted between the country’s security forces and protesters demanding the release of an opposition politician and a media magnate.
Health officials in the Oromiya region surrounding the capital, Addis Ababa, revealed the development on Thursday.
The protests began on Tuesday after a social media campaign for the release of prominent Oromo opposition leader Bekele Gerba and media mogul Jawar Mohammed. The duo was arrested days after the killing of an iconic Oromo singer Haacaaluu Hundeessaa.
Jawar is a former staunch supporter of Abiy now turned vocal critic, while Bekele is a leader of an opposition Oromo political party.
The singer’s death sparked protests in the capital Addis Ababa and spread to the surrounding Oromiya region, killing at least 178 people.
According to reports, Harar region’s Hiwot Fana and Jegol hospitals admitted 32 people with gunshot wounds on Tuesday, most from Oromiya’s Aweday town, two doctors disclosed, on the condition of anonymity.
Six of the wounded died and one is in critical condition at Hiwot Fana Hospital, a doctor at the hospital said.
“They were shot in their head, chest and abdomen,” the doctor from Hiwot Fana Hospital said.
In Ciro, 320 km (200 miles) east of Addis Ababa, 30 people were taken to hospital, 25 of them with bullet wounds, a health official told journalists. Two died on Tuesday and a third on Wednesday.
While Prime Minister Abiy’s office referred all inquiries to the Oromiya regional government for comments, Getachew Balcha, the Oromiya regional government spokesman did not return calls or text messages seeking comments.
The state-run Ethiopian Human Rights Commission has called for an investigation.
“Authorities should ensure that the right to peaceful protests can be exercised, and law enforcement measures against anything beyond that do not exceed proportion,” spokesman Aaron Maasho said in a statement.
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