Ethiopia’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed says his government has thwarted a coup attempt in the Amhara region, which lies north of capital, Addis Ababa.
On Saturday evening, armed men burst into a meeting in the state office of Amhara’s capital, Bahir Dar and shot regional government President Ambachew Mekonnen and his adviser Ezez Wassie. They both were critically injured and died shortly after.
The same night, in what seems to be a coordinated attack, Ethiopian National Defense Force Chief of Staff, General Seare Mekonnen and retired general Gizae Aberra were both shot dead in Se’are’s home in Addis, by his own bodyguard.
State TV has named the region’s security head, Brigadier General Asamnew Tsige, as the orchestrator of the attempted coup.
Since he came to power last year, PM Abiy has tried to implement reforms in the East African nation of 100 million people where years of political violence culminated in the resignation of Abiy’s predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn.
Abiy has released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses, but his government is still unable to ease mounting violence.
The homeland of the Amhara ethnic group is the country’s second most populous region and has given Ethiopia its state language – Amharic.
Violence between the Amhara and Gumuz ethnic groups left dozens of people dead last month in Amhara and its neighbouring region, Benishangul Gumuz.
Ethnic violence, typically sparked by land disputes, has displaced nearly three million people across the Horn of Africa nation. Ethnic Somalis and Oromo have recently been agitating for independence and sporadic violence is ongoing.
This combined with the issue of unrest within the military is a recipe for instability.
Mr Abiy survived a grenade attack at a rally in June last year which killed two people and left more than 100 injured.
Tsige was among a group of high-ranking military officers released from prison early last year when the previous government moved to free political detainees in response to public pressure.
The general had been incarcerated for nine years for allegedly plotting a coup and was reinstated after his release.
As of now, Asaminew remains at large, although several of his co-conspirators, including General Se’are’s bodyguard are in custody.