67 Killed In Anti-Abiy Protests, Ethnic Violence In Ethiopia

 

 

Violence in Ethiopia that began with protests against Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and quickly morphed into ethnic clashes has left 67 people dead in Oromia state, a police official said Friday.

The spike in the death toll came as the high-profile activist at the centre of the violence accused Abiy, this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, of acting like a dictator and suggesting he might challenge him in elections planned for next year.

“The total number dead in Oromia is 67,” said Kefyalew Tefera, the regional police chief, adding that five of the dead were police officers.

Violence erupted in Addis Ababa, the capital, and in much of Ethiopia’s Oromia region on Wednesday after the activist, Jawar Mohammed, accused security forces of trying to orchestrate an attack against him — a claim police officials denied.

Kefyalew told AFP that the violence had ended in Oromia but Amnesty International researcher Fisseha Tekle said late Friday that he was still receiving reports of attacks.

The defence ministry said Friday that it was deploying forces to seven hotspots to restore order, according to the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate.

Jawar is credited with promoting protests that swept Abiy to power last year but he has recently become critical of some of the premier’s policies.

In an interview at his residence in Addis Ababa, Jawar told AFP that Abiy — named Nobel Peace laureate two weeks ago — seemed to be taking Ethiopia back to “the old ways” of authoritarian rule.

“He has resorted to the early signs of dictatorship, of trying to intimidate people, even his very close allies who helped him come to power who happen to disagree with some of the policies and positions and ideologies he’s advocating,” Jawar said.

“Intimidation is the start of authoritarian rule.”

Both men are members of the Oromo ethnic group, Ethiopia’s largest.

Their feud highlights divisions within Abiy’s Oromo support base that could complicate his bid for a five-year term when Ethiopia votes in elections currently planned for May 2020.

Jawar said that running against Abiy was “one possibility,” though he also said he could be convinced to back Abiy if he changes course.

“I want to have an active role in the coming election. In what capacity I’m not sure but I want to make sure that the influence I have in the country has a positive contribution,” he said.

Religious, ethnic conflict

After two days of violent protests, tensions had cooled Friday in Addis Ababa, although the total damage inflicted by the unrest was still being tallied.

Fisseha of AI said the violence had included instances of security forces opening fire on protesters but was increasingly taking the form of ethnic and religious clashes.

“Some people have lost their lives with sticks, with machetes, some houses have been burned. People have been using even bullets and light arms to kill each other, to fight each other,” he said.

At least six people were killed in the town of Ambo, west of Addis, after security forces opened fire on protesters, Fisseha said.

Ethnic and religious violence has been reported in the towns and cities of Dodola, Harar, Balerobe and Adama.

Property belonging to the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, which some associate with the Amhara ethnic group, has been targeted in several locations, Fisseha said.

Daniel Bekele, head of the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission, urged public figures to tamp down virulent rhetoric that could contribute to additional unrest.

“It is extremely depressing that public officials and community leaders don’t appreciate the consequences of their actions and words leading to this senseless loss of lives, destruction of property and disruption of ordinary life,” he said.

“As security forces are struggling to calm the crisis, everyone has a responsibility to do their share and cooperate.”

Fierce Battles In Mexico As Arrest Of El Chapo’s Son Goes Wrong

 

Heavily armed gunmen waged an all-out battle against Mexican security forces Thursday as soldiers arrested — then reportedly released — a son of jailed drug kingpin Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman in his home state, Sinaloa.

Security Minister Alfonso Durazo said soldiers on a routine afternoon patrol came under fire from a residence in the state capital, Culiacan.

He said they responded by taking the house and detaining four people inside, including Ovidio Guzman, one of several sons of “El Chapo” who have partly taken over the Sinaloa cartel since he was extradited to the United States in 2017.

Cartel gunmen then “surrounded the house, outnumbering the soldiers,” and began a massive assault on various parts of the city, Durazo said.

That triggered an hours-long battle that left blazing vehicles strewn across the street and sent terrified residents running for shelter.

“In order to protect the greater good, the people of Culiacan’s safety and well-being, the (federal government’s) security cabinet decided to suspend said actions,” Durazo said in a video message.

READ ALSO: Mexico Says Son Of Drug Kingpin ‘El Chapo’ Arrested

According to Mexican media reports, that included freeing Ovidio Guzman.

Neither Durazo nor President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s office immediately responded to requests for further information, and details on the day’s incidents remained murky.

Durazo said the security cabinet would travel to Culiacan to personally oversee the next steps. Officials were due to give a press conference in the western city at 6:45 am (1245 GMT) Friday.

Images carried on Mexican television showed army and police personnel under assault by men armed with heavy weapons.

Some panicked drivers abandoned their cars in the middle of the street to take cover from the deafening gunfire.

Gunmen blocked roads and highways into the evening, bringing the city of 750,000 people to a standstill, AFP journalists said.

Sources in the Sinaloa state government speaking on condition of anonymity said police officers had been wounded.

They also said an unknown number of inmates had escaped from the Aguaruto prison in Culiacan amid the chaos.

The state government said it was “working to restore calm and order in the face of the high-impact incidents that have occurred in recent hours in various points around Culiacan.”

It called on residents to “remain calm, stay off the streets and be very attentive to official advisories on the evolving situation.”

Dire security situation

“El Chapo,” 62, was sentenced to life in prison in July for trafficking hundreds of tons of cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine and marijuana into the United States over the course of a quarter-century.

However, his cartel remains one of the most powerful in Mexico.

Guzman’s extradition unleashed an initial period of instability in the group, as Ovidio and his brothers waged war with cartel co-founder Ismael “El Mayo” Zambada for control, leaving a trail of bodies in their wake.

But the situation has since stabilized into a reluctant truce.

Guzman, whose nickname means “Shorty,” was re-arrested in 2016 after a brazen prison escape — the second of his career.

He is considered the most powerful drug lord since Colombia’s Pablo Escobar, who was killed in a police shootout in 1993.

After being convicted in a New York court, “El Chapo” is now serving a life sentence in the notorious ADX federal maximum security prison in Colorado.

Ovidio and his brothers have tried to fill their father’s shoes, but anti-narcotics experts portray them as flashy party boys who have little ability to run the business side of the cartel.

Reports that Ovidio had been arrested and then freed triggered harsh criticism of Obrador’s security strategy.

The leftist leader, who took office in December 2018, has struggled to rein in the brutal violence racking Mexico.

Earlier this week, 28 people were killed in two separate gun battles in the restive states of Michoacan and Guerrero.

Mexico has registered more than 250,000 murders since the government controversially deployed the army to fight drug cartels in 2006.

Many experts blame the “drug war” for spiraling violence, as fragmented cartels battle each other and the army.

Egypt Kills 15 militants In North Sinai Shootout

 

Egyptian security forces have killed 15 suspected militants in a shootout in restive north Sinai, the interior ministry said Sunday.

A militant group was “planning hostile acts targeting military and police forces…in order to destabilise national security”, the ministry said in a statement.

It did not name a specific group, but said “terrorist elements” had been hiding in a farm in El-Arish, the capital of North Sinai province.

When forces approached, “the militants shot live rounds forcing troops to deal with them (and) leading to 15 deaths”.

Graphic pictures of the bodies of the alleged militants were sent along with the Sunday press release.

Authorities also said they found a small trove of stashed weapons including an explosive belt, several rifles and an explosive device.

The ministry did not specify when the reported shootout took place, but Sunday’s announcement follows recent military operations in Sinai that authorities say killed 118 suspected militants.

Nine soldiers were killed and one wounded in those “counter-terrorism” operations, a military statement said on Friday.

President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi paid tribute to the dead personnel in a series of tweets late Friday, describing “terrorism” as a “cancer still trying to kidnap the nation”.

In February 2018, Egypt’s military launched a nationwide offensive against Islamist militants, focused mainly on North Sinai, where the Islamic State group still has a significant presence.

Some 665 suspected jihadists and around 60 soldiers have been killed since, according to official figures.

UN Peacekeeping Helicopter Crashes In C.Africa, Three Dead

 

Three people were killed and a fourth was injured when a combat helicopter used by United Nations peacekeepers in the Central African Republic crashed on landing, the UN force said on Friday.

“It is with immense sorrow that I have learned of the crash of a Senegalese combat helicopter as it was landing at Bouar, leading to three deaths and one injured,” the head of the MINUSCA mission, Mankeur Ndiaye, said on Twitter.

Ten Dead At President Nyusi’s Rally Ahead Of Elections In Mozambique

 

At least ten people were killed in Mozambique during a stampede at a campaign rally of President Filipe Nyusi, the ruling party said, just over a month ahead of general elections.

The small stadium in the northern city of Nampula where the rally was being held on Wednesday was overcrowded and a crush occured as people rushed for the exits at the end, according to witnesses.

“Unfortunately 10 of our party’s militants died,” the ruling Frelimo party said in a statement, adding that 85 people were injured.

READ ALSO: 16 Killed In Mozambique Insurgency Attack

The scene was “total chaos”, rally attendee Benjamin Nhumaio told AFP.

“What happened is that the gates were closed and they were only opened after the departure of Frelimo candidate, President Nyusi,” said Nhumaio.

“Hence everyone inside the 25 de Junho Stadium wanted to leave at the same time and there were people who were pushed and they fell and were trampled,” he added.

The incident claimed the lives of at least 6 women and 4 men, according to the party.

Nyusi is hoping for a second term in office at general elections scheduled for October 15. His Frelimo party has dominated power for more than four decades and he is expected to win.

His government and ex-rebel group-turned opposition party Renamo completed a long-awaited peace pact last month, 27 years after the end of the first civil war.

But Renamo has said dozens of its members have come under attack just days after the signing of the historic deal, threatening the landmark agreement.

Two Aid Workers Killed In ‘Ambush’ In Western Ethiopia

 

 

Two staff members with Action Against Hunger have been shot dead by unidentified “armed individuals” in western Ethiopia, the aid group said.

Action Against Hunger said the aid workers were “ambushed” on Thursday while leaving Nguenyyiel Refugee Camp in the Gambella region.

The camp hosts tens of thousands of refugees from neighbouring South Sudan, which has been mired in civil war since 2013.

“Two employees were killed at the scene,” Action Against Hunger said late on Thursday.

“Action Against Hunger has suspended full operations in Gambella, but are maintaining the provision of life-saving assistance.”

READ ALSO: Zimbabwe Ex-President Robert Mugabe Dies Aged 95

The international humanitarian group also said it was “coordinating with the authorities who are investigating this attack.”

The office of the United Nations resident and humanitarian coordinator in Ethiopia condemned the attack.

“Attacks on aid workers in clearly marked humanitarian vehicles constitute a violation of international humanitarian law,” it said in a statement.

Neither Action Against Hunger nor the UN provided details in their statements on the nationalities of the dead or if there were any injured.

Clashes Between Herders, Farmers Kill 11 In Chad

Chad

 

Eleven people were killed in fighting between nomadic herders and sedentary farmers in a dispute over trampled crops in southern Chad, the local governor said Wednesday.

The violence broke out in the district of Koumogo on Monday, causing the death of three herders and eight farmers, the governor of Moyen-Chari province, Abbadi Sahir, told AFP by phone.

Clashes between settled farmers and the nomadic Arab herders are a worsening problem in the arid Sahel, where tensions over access to land are frequent.

READ ALSO: Death Toll From Capsized Cameroon Ferry Rises To 17

The death toll and details of the confrontation were confirmed by a local tribal chief, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity.

According to the chief, a herder was killed after cattle trampled some crops. In retaliation, herders used firearms to attack a farmers’ camp, he said.

Police have been deployed at the camp and the governor said he was in negotiations with both sides to calm tensions.

President Idriss Deby this month declared a state of emergency and deployed troops to two eastern provinces, Sila and Ouaddai, where 50 people have died since August 9 in the fighting.

Cattle Rustlers Kill 12 In Kenya

 

At least 12 people, including three children, were killed in two attacks in northern Kenya at the weekend by cattle rustlers suspected to be from the Borana ethnic group, Kenyan police said Sunday.

The attacks on two villages in Kenya’s Marsabit County near the border with Ethiopia were on cattle breeders from the Gabra ethnic group, long-time rivals of the Borana, police said in a statement.

“Five male Gabra adults were killed and three others were seriously injured” in one small village on Saturday evening, police said.

The attackers, who took around 500 head of cattle, were “suspected Ethiopian Borana cattle rustlers”, the police said.

In the other attack, on a nearby village, four Gabra adults and three children between the ages of 13 and 15, including one girl, were killed, with four people injured.

The thieves took around 1,000 goats in the second attack, in which one of the raiders was killed.

Kenyan police units are “pursuing the criminals and holding ground to prevent further attacks and killings,” the statement said.

Kenya started conducting its first national census since 2009 on Saturday, and the authorities said the exercise would continue in Marsabit.

The theft of livestock — and deadly attacks to carry out the crime — are common between cattle herding communities in northern Kenya.

At Least 4,000 Detained In Kashmir Since Autonomy Stripped

 

Thousands of people have been detained in Indian Kashmir over fears of unrest since New Delhi stripped the restive region of its autonomy two weeks ago, government sources told AFP.

A magistrate speaking to AFP on condition of anonymity said at least 4,000 people were arrested and held under the Public Safety Act (PSA), a controversial law that allows authorities to imprison someone for up to two years without charge or trial.

READ ALSO: UN Security Council To Discuss Kashmir On Friday

“Most of them were flown out of Kashmir because prisons here have run out of capacity,” the magistrate said, adding that he had used a satellite phone allocated to him to collate the figures from colleagues across the Himalayan territory amid a communications blackout imposed by authorities.

Trump Says Xi Can ‘Quickly, Humanely Solve’ Hong Kong Standoff

(FILES)(COMBO) This combination of file pictures shows US President Donald Trump and China’s leader Xi Jinping. Ed Jones, Paul J. RICHARDS / AFP

 

US President Donald Trump on Wednesday said Xi Jinping can “humanely” resolve the violent standoff with protesters in Hong Kong and appeared to suggest meeting the Chinese leader.

“I have ZERO doubt that if President Xi wants to quickly and humanely solve the Hong Kong problem, he can do it,” Trump tweeted from vacation at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey.

“Personal meeting?” he added in what appeared to be an idea for offering his own help to Xi directly.

Protesters have staged 10 weeks of relentless protests to demand greater freedoms in Hong Kong, including rallies that paralyzed the semi-autonomous city’s airport, one of the world’s busiest travel hubs.

The United States has said it is “deeply concerned” over Chinese security force movements on the border with Hong Kong and urged Beijing to honor the territory’s autonomy.

Under a 1997 deal that saw Hong Kong return to China from British colonial rule, the city is meant to have far greater liberties than those allowed on the mainland.

AFP

17 ‘Terrorists’ Killed In Egypt Operation Linked To Car Blast

 

Egyptian security forces killed 17 “terrorists” on Thursday during an operation against suspects in last weekend’s deadly car blast in Cairo that claimed some 20 lives.

The interior ministry said the 17 killed belonged to the Hasm group, an armed affiliate of the banned Muslim Brotherhood.

Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi has called the collision between several vehicles in Cairo a “terrorist act” as one of the cars was loaded with explosives.

The collision happened just before midnight Sunday, when a speeding car packed with explosives drove against the traffic and crashed into three other vehicles outside the National Cancer Institute in the Egyptian capital.

READ ALSO: Trump Says US ‘Not Ready’ To Make Trade Deal With China

According to the health ministry, at least 20 people were killed in the collision.

The Hasm group was “behind the preparations of the vehicle” that caused the explosion, the interior ministry said in a statement.

It added that it had identified the suicide driver of the vehicle as a member of Hasm.

Security forces were able to “locate members of a Hasm cell” and killed 17 of them, including the brother of the suicide car bomber, during operations in Cairo and in Faiyum, south of the capital, the ministry said.

It was not immediatedly clear if the Hasm cell and the 17 people were directly involved in Sunday’s deadly collision.

Since 2016 the Hasm group has claimed responsibility for several attacks against police, officials and judges in Cairo.

School Students Shot Dead At Sudan Rally Ahead Of Talks

Tires are set ablaze by Sudanese protesters during a rally in the capital Khartoum to condemn the “massacre” of five demonstrators including four high school students at a rally in the cantral town of Al-Obeida on July 29, 2019. Credit: ASHRAF SHAZLY / AFP

 

Four Sudanese school students were among five demonstrators shot dead Monday during a rally against shortages of bread and fuel, a day before protest leaders and ruling generals are set to hold new talks on the country’s transition.

Authorities announced a night-time curfew in four towns following the deaths in the central town of Al-Obeid, as a key protest group called for nationwide rallies against the “massacre”.

The ruling military council and protest leaders earlier this month inked a power-sharing deal providing for a joint civilian-military administration which in turn would install civilian rule.

That is the main demand of a nationwide protest movement that led to the April ouster of longtime leader Omar al-Bashir and has since demanded that the generals who took his place cede power to civilians.

But on the eve of Tuesday’s talks aimed at resolving outstanding issues over the transition, five protesters were killed in Al-Obeid, the capital of North Kordofan state, said a doctors’ committee linked to the protest movement.

“Five martyrs succumbed to direct wounds from sniper bullets during a peaceful rally in Al-Obeid,” the committee said in a statement.

Prominent protest leader Babikir Faisal told AFP that the dead included “four high school students”.

Al-Obeid residents and a local journalist also confirmed that the dead included high schoolers.

A key protest group, the Sudanese Professionals Association, said “live ammunition” had been used against a “rally of school students”.

In a post on its Facebook page, it urged “all citizens and medics” to head to hospitals treating the wounded.

In a separate statement, it called for nationwide protests against the “massacre,” demanding that “the perpetrators be brought to justice”.

Hundreds of protesters later rallied in Khartoum’s two districts of Bahri and Burri, but they were swiftly confronted by riot police who fired tear gas, witnesses said.

The office of North Kordofan’s governor announced an overnight curfew in four towns including Al-Obeid, starting Monday and continuing indefinitely.

It added that all schools in the province had been told to suspend classes.

Calls to suspend talks

Residents of Al-Obeid said the rally had been over a shortage of bread and fuel in the town.

It was a sudden tripling of bread prices that initially triggered December protests against Bashir, which later turned into a nationwide movement against his three-decade rule.

“For the past few days there has been a shortage of fuel and bread,” an Al-Obeid resident told AFP by telephone.

“School children were affected as there is no transport to help them reach their schools. Today, they staged a rally and when it reached downtown there were shots fired.”

The town had not previously witnessed major rallies against Bashir even as provinces, cities and towns were swept up by the campaign against his rule.

Monday’s deaths sparked calls for talks set for Tuesday to be suspended.

“We cannot sit at the negotiating table with those allowing the killing of revolutionaries,” Siddig Youssef, a prominent protest leader, said in a statement.

Tuesday’s talks were set to cover issues including the powers of the joint civilian-military ruling body, the deployment of security forces and immunity for generals over protest-related violence, according to protest leaders.

The power-sharing deal agreed on July 17 provided for the establishment of a new governing body of six civilians and five generals.

It was then to oversee the formation of a transitional civilian government and parliament to govern for 39 months, followed by elections.

Impartial probe

Khartoum has seen angry demonstrations since Saturday, when investigators announced the results of a probe showing into a deadly crackdown on a protest camp.

Shortly before dawn on June 3, gunmen in military fatigues raided the site of a weeks-long sit-in outside the military headquarters in Khartoum, shooting and beating protesters.

Doctors linked to the protest movement say the raid left 127 people dead and scores wounded.

But the joint investigation by prosecutors and the ruling military council that took power following Bashir’s ouster found that just 17 people were killed on June 3, with a total of 87 dying between that day and June 10.

The probe identified eight officers involved in the violent crackdown on the protest camp, including three from the feared Rapid Support Forces paramilitary group.

But protest leaders have rejected the findings, saying the inquiry exonerated the military council and gave a far lower death toll than their own figures.

The investigation “was commissioned by the military council, this is challenging its integrity as the military council itself is accused in this case,” said the Sudanese Professionals Association.

Demonstrators have called for an independent investigation into the raid.

The country’s ruling generals have insisted they did not order the dispersal of the sit-in.

AFP