- Protests against the reassignment of a special force in Amhara
- An explosion in Bahir Dar killed two people
NAIROBI (Reuters) – At least two people have been killed in an explosion in the capital of Ethiopia’s Amhara region, which has been rocked by days of protests against the integration of local security forces into the national police and army.
Members of the Amhara’s local army and allied militia said they opposed the government’s order to disband the federal army or police and join the federal army, sparking days of protests in many towns and cities across the region.
Monday’s blast killed two people and injured others in Bahir Dar, according to a police officer. It was not clear what caused the explosion or whether it was related to the protests.
Three men who were watching football in a bar were killed and 15 wounded in the incident, said Mitiko Tegne, acting medical director of the city’s Addis Alem Hospital.
Banks, schools and government offices were closed in another Amhara city, Debre Berhan, on Tuesday, after days of protests in the region against the government’s move.
Residents said they heard gunshots and heavy weapons on the outskirts of the city on Tuesday morning.
In a separate incident highlighting the deteriorating security situation in Amhara, the Ethiopian Red Cross said unidentified gunmen shot and wounded a midwife and an ambulance driver in the central Gondar region on Sunday night.
“We ask any armed group to refrain from such attacks and to respect international humanitarian law,” said group spokesman Mesfin Dreij.
The charity said two Catholic Relief Services workers were shot dead on Sunday in the Amhara region.
Two humanitarian sources said the World Food Program had also suspended aid distribution in Amhara since Friday because of the protests.
Gizacio Muluneh, a spokesman for the Amhara regional administration, and federal government spokesman Legis Tolo did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the blast, the attack on Red Cross staff, or the WFP’s suspension of activities.
A spokesman for the World Food Program did not immediately respond to a request for comment on reports that aid distributions in Amhara had been suspended.
Amhara politicians and activists have condemned the government’s order requiring local forces from each of Ethiopia’s 11 regions – which have a degree of autonomy – to integrate into the federal police or army.
They say disbanding the Amhara forces would leave the region vulnerable to attacks from neighboring regions, including Tigray, whose leaders agreed to a truce with the federal government in November to end a two-year war that has killed tens of thousands.
Amhara forces fought on the side of the federal army in that conflict.
(Reporting by Giulia Paravicini and Hereward Holland) Writing by Hereward Holland, George Obulutsa; Editing by Angus McSwan, Aaron Ross and Alex Richardson
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