Ethiopia’s army chief was shot dead by his bodyguard just hours after an attempted coup in Amhara state left the regional president and another top adviser dead, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Sunday.
Spokeswoman Billene Seyoum told journalists a “hit squad” led by Amhara’s security chief Asaminew Tsige burst into a meeting on Saturday afternoon and shot regional president Ambachew Mekonnen and another top official.
The men were “gravely injured in the attack and later died of their wounds,” she said.
“Several hours later in what seems like a coordinated attack, the chief of the staff of the national security forces Seare Mekonnen was killed in his home by his bodyguard.”
The head of Ethiopia's Amhara state and his advisor were also killed during a coup attempt in their state, state media reported on Sunday.
Ambachew Mekonnen and his advisor were attacked in their offices on Saturday, state media reported.
Speaking on state television late on Saturday, Abiy said General Seare Mekonnen was one of several casualties. But his press secretary, Billene Seyoum, told Reuters later that it was unclear whether General Seare had been killed or wounded.
“He was shot by people who are close to him,” Abiy said.
The prime minister said the general had been trying to prevent plotters carrying out a coup in Amhara state, one of Ethiopia’s nine federal states.
Since coming to power last year, Abiy has tried to spearhead political reforms, to open up the once isolated, security-obsessed country of 100 million people on the Horn of Africa.
Abiy has released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses, but his government is battling mounting violence.
Ethnic bloodshed - long held in check by the state’s iron grip - has flared up in many areas, including Amhara, where the regional government was led by Ambachew Mekonnen.
According to Abiy, regional government officials were in a meeting when a coup attempt occurred.
“There are a few people who were killed while others were injured,” Abiy said.
An Ethiopian army general was behind a coup attempt in the state of Amahara, state television reported on Sunday.
State media named him as General Asamnew Tsige, who was Amhara's head of security.
Amhara is one of nine regional states in Ethiopia.
A regional television broadcaster affiliated with the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), a member of Abiy’s coalition, reported Seare had been killed, alongside another senior military official, Gize Abera.
The US Embassy said on Saturday that it was aware of reports of gunfire in Addis Ababa, though Reuters could not confirm those reports.
“Chief of Mission personnel are advised to shelter in place,” the Embassy said on its website.
Early on Sunday, Brigadier General Tefera Mamo, the head of special forces in Amhara, told state television that “most of the people who attempted the coup have been arrested, although there are a few still at large.”
Residents in Amhara’s capital Bahir Dar said late on Saturday there was gunfire in some neighborhoods and some roads had been closed off.
Ethiopia is due to hold a national parliamentary election next year. Several opposition groups have called for the polls to be held on time despite the unrest and displacement.