Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed says ‘a few’ killed in Addis Ababa blast

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An explosion has killed several people at a large rally by supporters of Ethiopia’s new, reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in the capital, Addis Ababa.

In a televised address shortly after Saturday’s blast, Abiy said “a few people” were killed in the what he called a “well-orchestrated attack”, offering his condolences to the families of the victims.

Fitsum Arega, the prime minister’s chief of staff said on Twitter that unidentified assailants launched a grenade attack at the rally.

“Some whose heart is filled with hate attempted a grenade attack. HE PM Abiy is safe. All the casualties are martyrs of love & peace. HE PM sends his condolences to the victims. The perpetrators will be brought to justice,” Arega said.

An Associated Press news agency reporter saw more than a dozen injured people at the rally. Footage showed Abiy being rushed from the scene by security guards.

The state broadcaster quickly cut away from coverage of the rally, which has broken up with people singing, chanting and going back to their homes.

Ambulances were at the scene in the crowded Meskel Square in Addis Ababa where the prime minister had been addressing thousands of supporters.

In a cowboy hat and T-shirt, Abiy addressed the crowd as supporters wore clothes displaying his image and carry signs saying “One Love, One Ethiopia”.

The explosion occurred shortly after Abiy finished speaking and was waving to the crowd.

Ethiopians had packed the square in a show of support for Abiy’s reformist agenda, with numbers unseen in recent years in the East African nation.

As part of the promised reforms, Abiy has announced the release of tens of thousands of prisoners, the opening of state-owned companies to private investment and the unconditional embrace of a peace deal with rival Eritrea.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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