At least two people were killed by an explosion in the capital of Ethiopia’s Amhara region, as protests against the integration of local security forces into the national police and army continue to escalate.
According to local officials and hospital workers, several people were shot during a sixth day of demonstrations in Amhara on Tuesday.
The protesters are opposing the government’s plans to integrate local defense forces into the police and national army, claiming that it would leave Amhara vulnerable to attacks from other regions.
Amhara, the second largest region in Ethiopia, has been gripped by protests for several days, posing a new security challenge for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed’s government, which recently ended a two-year war in the neighboring Tigray region.
Reports from Amhara residents indicate that protests have resumed in several towns, with clashes erupting in Kombolcha. Mayor Mohammed Amin stated that clashes broke out after false information spread that federal soldiers had abducted members of the Amhara regional force, leading to protesters attacking an army camp. Casualty figures were not immediately available.
A Kombolcha resident, who requested anonymity, stated that federal soldiers had indeed attempted to arrest regional troops, leading to protesters intervening. He claimed to have seen the bodies of five people killed by gunshots and 10 others who were wounded.
A doctor in the nearby town of Dessie confirmed receiving 12 wounded people from Kombolcha and hearing about additional deaths, though there is no official casualty figures yet. Requests for comments from Amhara’s regional administration, the federal government, and the army went unanswered.
The violence in Kombolcha follows an explosion at a bar in the regional capital of Bahir Dar the previous day, which resulted in two deaths and several injuries, according to a police officer. The cause of the explosion and any potential connection to the protests remain unclear.
In the midst of the escalating unrest, the United Nations’ World Food Programme announced the suspension of food deliveries in Amhara, where millions rely on humanitarian aid, due to the deteriorating security situation.