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Death toll in Ethiopian unrest rises to 42

November 3, 2005

By Tsegaye Tadesse

ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) – Three people were shot dead in the
Ethiopian capital on Thursday, doctors said, in a third
straight day of political unrest that has killed at least 42
and stirred fears for the giant African country’s stability.

The violence has prompted Britain to warn its citizens
against non-essential travel to Ethiopia and both the European
Union and African Union urged government and opposition in the
country, the Horn of Africa’s dominant power, to show
restraint.

Witnesses said police in Addis Ababa opened fire to
disperse anti-government protests in several pockets of unrest
across the city, a bastion of opposition groups which accuse
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi of rigging his way back to power at
polls in May.

Doctors said that in addition to the three killed on
Thursday, the overnight death toll among those wounded on
Tuesday and Wednesday had risen to eight from three.

“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. The third doctor said a man in his 20s was shot a
few kms (miles) from St Paul’s Hospital and was dead on
arrival.

Many of the wounded said they were not part of the unrest.

“I was shot while I was trying to enter my house. The
shooting was indiscriminate. They were attacking children and
women,” said 24 year-old Mengistu Dagagnew, lying on a
stretcher in Zewditu hospital and holding his own drip aloft.

Abebetch Ayenew sobbed as she waited for news about her
11-year-old daughter, sent to an operating theater to remove a
bullet from her chest.

“She went out of the house — there was shooting outside —
to check what was happening and then she was shot,” Abebetch
said.

Police have also detained scores of people including human
rights activists, residents said.

The violence broke out on Tuesday when riot police clashed
with 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.

“From last evening police have been rounding up CUD zonal
leaders and human rights activists,” said Adam Melaku of the
Ethiopian Human Rights Council. “We are very scared.”

In a development likely to test nerves further, state-run
Ethiopian News Agency reported late on Thursday that seven
prisoners were shot dead and 26 wounded trying to escape from
Kaliti prison near the capital.

Ethiopians say Kaliti has been used in the past to house
people held for politically-related offences, but there was no
word on the identity of the reported casualties or whether the
incident was linked to the latest disturbances.

DEATH TOLL RISES

Medical sources on Thursday put the death toll from the
previous day’s clashes between riot police and opposition
supporters at 31. Eight were killed on Tuesday. The government
says fewer were killed, putting the toll at 11 protesters and
two police officers.

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 were responsible
for stoking the bloodshed. “There is no witch-hunt against CUD
members except those involved in inciting violence,” he said.

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’s worst violence since student riots in 2001. 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.

Washington condemned “cynical, deliberate” attempts to
stoke violence and urged the opposition not to provoke unrest.
It also urged the government to probe the unrest and free all
detainees.




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