3 dead after militia shootout in Ethiopian capital

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A shootout between militiamen and police officers killed three people Friday in the Ethiopian capital in a rare case of the country’s many regional rebellions spilling into the city.

The violence occurred near Millenium Hall in Addis Ababa’s downtown as officers tried to apprehend three fighters from a militia known as Fano. The fighters were « on a mission to carry out a terrorist attack, » a police statement said.

Two of the militia members were killed, and police arrested the third. A bystander also was killed during the gunbattle, and two police officers were injured.

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« The extremists were asked to surrender but refused to do so, » the police statement said.

Ethiopia’s security services have been battling a full-blown rebellion by the Fano, an ethno-nationalist group, since August. It was sparked by a disputed plan to integrate regional forces into the federal military and has rendered lawless much of Amhara, Ethiopia’s second-biggest region.

Ethiopian flag

This undated photograph shows the Ethiopian flag. (Bildagentur-online/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

One of the Fano rebellion’s bloodiest episodes occurred on Jan 29, when soldiers went door-to-door killing dozens of civilians in the Amhara town of Merawi after clashes with local Fano members, according to rights groups.

In a report released Friday, Amnesty International put the death toll in Merawi at more than 50. The rights group said federal soldiers « rounded up local men from their homes, shops and the streets and shot and killed scores. »

Addis Ababa has been largely insulated from Ethiopia’s regional revolts. In addition to the violence in Amhara, the federal government is also battling a separate ethnic-based insurgency in Oromia, the country’s biggest region.

Other armed groups are active in the Gambella, Benishangul-Gumuz and Somali regions of Ethiopia. Between 2020 and 2022, the federal military fought a bloody war against the northern Tigray regions, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths.

The Fano fought alongside the federal government in the Tigray war, but relations soured even during that conflict. Tigray rebels advanced to within 115 miles of the capital before retreating.

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The shootout in Addis Ababa followed the shooting of Bate Urgessa, a prominent opposition figure, in the Oromia town of Meki on Tuesday night. The United States, Britain and several other countries have called for a full investigation into his death.