Monday, 3 October 2016

Dozens die in stampede after police fire warning shots at protesters in Ethiopia

Over 50 people were killed in a stampede in Ethiopia's Oromiya region that was triggered when police used teargas and shot in the air on Sunday to disperse anti-government protesters at a religious festival.

The state broadcaster put the death toll at 52, citing regional officials. The opposition also said at least 50 people were killed at the annual festival where some people had chanted slogans against the government and waved a rebel group's flag.

Sporadic protests have erupted in Oromiya in the last two years, initially sparked by a land row but increasingly turning more broadly against the government. Since late 2015, scores of protesters have been killed in clashes with police.

The developments highlight tensions in the country where the government has delivered stellar economic growth rates but faced criticism from opponents and rights groups that it has reduced political freedoms.

Thousands of people had gathered for the annual Irreecha festival of thanksgiving in the town of Bishoftu, about 40 km (25 miles) south of the capital Addis Ababa.

Crowds chanted "We need freedom" and "We need justice", preventing community elders, deemed close to the government, from delivering their speeches, Reuters reports.

Some protesters waved the red, green and yellow flag of the Oromo Liberation Front, a rebel group branded a terrorist organisation by the government, witnesses said.

When police fired teargas and guns into the air, crowds fled and created a stampede, some of them plunging into a deep ditch.


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