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Ethiopia mourns top general killed ‘in Amhara coup attempt’

Gen Seare Mekonnen (TV screen grab)

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Ethiopian TV

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Gen Seare Mekonnen’s death was confirmed by TV channels

Ethiopia has held a memorial for the army chief of staff, Gen Seare Mekonnen, who was shot dead in an alleged coup attempt on Saturday.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed joined soldiers at a ceremony in Addis Ababa to honour the general, a key ally.

The assassination was reportedly part of a coup attempt in the Amhara region.

Officials say the alleged attacker, the general’s bodyguard, is being treated for his injuries – contradicting an earlier claim that he was dead.

The alleged ringleader behind the attempted coup, Brig Gen Asaminew Tsige, was shot dead on Monday, police said.

He was reportedly killed as he tried to escape from his hideout in the Asmara region’s capital, Bahir Dar.

Tuesday’s memorial service took place at a large venue in the Ethiopian capital, amid tight security.

Mourners paid their respects before flag-draped coffins bearing the bodies of Gen Seare and Gen Gezai Abera, a colleague who was assassinated with him.

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The Ethiopian flag has been flown at half-mast since the assassinations

In a statement on state media on Monday evening, Ethiopian federal police apologised for having earlier said that the alleged assassin, Gen Seare’s bodyguard, had killed himself.

The latest statement from the police said the bodyguard, who has not been named, was being treated for gunshot wounds in hospital. It is not clear if the injuries were self-inflicted.

Confusion has surrounded his condition, with the claim that he had killed himself contradicting initial reports that he had been arrested.

The internet has been shut across Ethiopia, days after services resumed following an unexplained blackout lasting more than a week.

Media captionThe PM’s spokeswoman gives details of army chief’s assassination

What has happened since the alleged coup?

The attack on Gen Seare and Gen Abera on Saturday came hours after one that killed the governor of Amhara, Ambachew Mekonnen, along with two senior officials.

The government described the events as a co-ordinated attempt to seize power in the northern region.

Mr Abiy has urged Ethiopians to unite against “evil” forces set on dividing the country.

The weekend’s assassinations represent the biggest challenge yet to his year-old government, which has undertaken sweeping reforms to the security apparatus.

The BBC’s Emmanuel Igunza says there is clearly still significant opposition within the military to the prime minister’s style of leadership.

The US, a key ally, has condemned the unrest, saying it was probably linked to “vestiges of the old regime” unhappy with Mr Abiy’s reforms.

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The renegade general was released from prison last year

Why did the alleged coup take place?

While details are still emerging, news of Gen Asaminew’s alleged bid for power was not a surprise for some Ethiopians.

He was a member of the Amhara, the country’s second largest ethic group. He had a reputation for hardline ethnic nationalism and had previously called for the Amhara people to have greater autonomy.

This month, in a video on social media, he openly advised the Amhara to arm themselves. He had been serving as Amhara’s regional security chief and was said to have a significant following among young people.

He was among a group of high-ranking military officers released from prison early last year when the government moved to free political detainees in response to public pressure.

The general had been in custody for nine years for allegedly plotting a coup.

Gen Asaminew had a bad relationship with the Tigray regional government as well.

The government claimed that Gen Seare and Gen Abera had been killed because they came from the minority Tigray ethnic group.

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Prime Minister Abiy appeared on TV wearing military fatigues

What has been Mr Abiy’s record in office?

Since his election last year, he has moved to end repression by releasing political prisoners, removing bans on opposition political parties and overseeing the prosecution of officials accused of human rights abuses.

He has also restored diplomatic relations with Ethiopia’s long-time adversary, Eritrea.

But his reforms have taken on powerful interest groups in the military and the ruling coalition.

Mr Abiy survived a grenade attack at a rally a year ago on Sunday, which killed two people and left more than 100 injured.

Africa’s oldest independent country, Ethiopia is also the continent’s second most populous after Nigeria, with 102.5 million inhabitants from more than 80 different ethnic groups.

A transfer hub for long-haul air travel, it has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, but a vast number of young Ethiopians are without work.

Ethiopia mourns top general killed ‘in Amhara coup attempt’

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