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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Thursday 3 November 2005

ETHIOPIA: Death toll at 33 on third day of violence in capital

ADDIS ABABA, 3 Nov 2005 (IRIN) - Two more people were killed and eight others injured in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on Thursday, bringing the death toll in three days of violence to 33, with more than 150 injured, doctors said.

Although most of the city was tentatively calm, renewed fighting broke out sporadically in areas close to several foreign embassies.

Police and heavily armed troops maintained a heavy presence, and armoured personnel carriers patrolled the streets on the third day of violence.

At least three policemen were killed as they clashed with protesters who were demonstrating against the disputed elections, which took place in May.

Many people had been arrested, although accurate numbers were not available. Diplomats said they believed as many as 2,000 people had been detained.

The US government called on all political parties to show restraint and asked the Ethiopian authorities to establish an independent inquiry into the killings and riots that took place in June, where some 42 people were believed to have been killed.

"We deplore the use of violence and deliberate attempts to invoke violence in a misguided attempt to resolve political differences," said Sean McCormack, a US government spokesman.

Several embassies issued travel advisories warning their citizens to stay away from potential trouble spots.

Earlier on Thursday, Information Minister Berhan Hailu said the situation had been brought under control. He said houses and buses had been destroyed and more than 54 police were injured on Wednesday, when the fiercest rioting took place.

According to the information ministry, eight people, including two policemen, were killed on Tuesday as riot police and stone-throwing demonstrators clashed. Some 43 were injured.

On Wednesday, the ministry said, 12 more people were killed, including a policeman, and 82 injured.

At five main hospitals in the capital, doctors told reporters that at least 23 people were killed in Wednesday's fighting, while more than 150 were injured.

Debris, including burned-out buses, tyres and broken glass, littered the streets.

"We call on the Ethiopian government to release all political detainees, including the many opposition supporters arrested in recent weeks," McCormack said.

"Senior opposition leaders arrested today [Wednesday] should be treated humanely and, if charged, assured of a just and timely trial before an impartial court of law," he added. "We call on the opposition to refrain from inciting civil disobedience during this time of heightened tension."

Among those arrested were senior leaders of the main opposition party, the Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD), including chairman Hailu Shawel and Addis Ababa mayor, Brehanu Nega.

European diplomats were expected to meet Prime Minister Meles Zenawi later on Thursday to try and resolve the crisis.

Amnesty International appealed for the release of opposition members and human rights activists who had been arrested.

"Amnesty International also calls for the security forces to be ordered not to use lethal force against demonstrators except where lives are threatened, and for an independent inquiry into the shooting deaths and injuries," it said in a statement.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) said it was concerned over threats to arrest journalists, who were accused of being mouthpieces for the opposition.

The Voice of America and Germany's Deutsche Welle were accused of being mouthpieces of the CUD, according to a story in the state-owned Ethiopian Herald.

"Through their statements and actions the Ethiopian government is making scapegoats of journalists who are just doing their job," said Ann Cooper, executive director of CPJ.

"Journalists have an obligation to cover these important events and present a range of political views, including those of the opposition. We are outraged that the government is undermining their work and jeopardizing their safety," she said.

The riots began on the day the government threatened legal action against the CUD, which had been boycotting Ethiopia's parliament. The party said it wanted a solution to the contested results of the parliamentary election before taking up its seats.

The party won 109 seats in the 547-member Council of People's Representatives. Opposition parties have claimed that hundreds of their supporters and members have been arrested in the past two months.

[ENDS]

This material comes to you via IRIN, a UN humanitarian information unit, but May not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations or its agencies. If you re-print, copy, archive or re-post this item, please retain this credit and disclaimer. Quotations or extracts should include attribution to the original sources. All materials copyright © UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 2005



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