Two people were shot dead on Thursday in clashes between police and protesters in the Ethiopian capital, bringing the death toll from three days of anti-government protests to at least 36.
“We have one person dead. He was 19 years old and hit in the chest,” a doctor in Zewditu Hospital said.
Another doctor in the Black Lion hospital said a 60-year-old man was killed in unrest in an eastern suburb of Addis Ababa. He said he was also treating an 11-year-old boy for gunshot wounds.
In the African country’s worst political violence in months, police in Addis Ababa opened fire to disperse hundreds of demonstrators apparently heeding a call by the opposition Coalition for Democracy and Unity (CUD) for renewed protests against a May 15 poll it says was rigged.
Police have also detained scores of people including human rights activists, residents said.
“From last evening police have been rounding up CUD zonal leaders and human rights activists,” Adam Melaku, head of the independent Ethiopian Human Rights Council, told Reuters.
“We are very scared,” he said.
Residents said police went from house to house picking up mainly young men suspected of involvement in the violence, which followed months of worsening tensions between the government and opposition in sub-Saharan Africa’s second most populous nation.
Information Minister Berhan Hailu confirmed the arrests but did not say how many had been detained. He repeated an accusation that CUD leaders had been responsible for stoking the bloodshed.
“There is no witch-hunt against CUD members except those involved in inciting violence,” he told Reuters.
Toll rises as injured die from wounds
Three people died overnight from their wounds, medical sources said on Thursday, raising the death toll from Wednesday’s clashes between riot police and opposition supporters to 26. Eight were killed on Tuesday.
The government says fewer were killed on Tuesday, putting the toll at 11 protesters and two police officers.
Political tensions in Africa’s top coffee grower have deepened since a multi-party vote in May handed Meles a third five-year term in power, despite a big swing to the opposition.
In June, post-election clashes killed 36 people in Addis Ababa, an opposition stronghold, in the capital’s worst violence since bloody student riots in 2001. Foreign observers broadly endorsed the poll results but noted some irregularities.
Diplomats regarded the election as a litmus test of Meles’s commitment to bringing democracy to a country still struggling to shake off the effects of centuries of feudalism followed by nearly 20 years of Marxism under dictator Mengistu Haile Mariam.
This week’s killings prompted Britain to urge its citizens against non-essential travel to Ethiopia and drew criticism from Western ally the United States.
Washington condemned “cynical, deliberate” attempts to stoke violence in the capital and appealed to the opposition not to provoke unrest. It also urged the government to investigate the unrest and release all detainees.
Washington has urged the CUD to use peaceful means to pursue its grievances and to take up its seats in parliament, something it has refused to do in protest at alleged rigging.
Special forces armed with rifles patrolled the quiet streets of the capital on Thursday, where shops were closed in part to mark the Muslim Eid Al-Fitr festival.
Tens of thousands of Muslims streamed to the main square in Addis Ababa for dawn prayers in a peaceful but brief gathering to celebrate the end of the Ramadan fasting period.
“The ceremony is not as joyful as previous years. Many people did not come,” said merchant Hussein Aware. “We are very sad because of all this fighting.”