Asamnew Tsige, Suspected ringleader in Ethiopian Coup Attempt, is Reported Killed



ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The general suspected of being behind a coup attempt in the Ethiopian region of Amhara has been captured and killed, state media reported on Monday.

The suspect, Gen. Asamnew Tsige, is accused of planning gun attacks on Saturday night that killed four people, including the army’s chief of staff and Amhara’s regional president. A fifth victim, the attorney general of Amhara, died of his wounds on Monday.

Earlier Monday, an Ethiopian government spokesman said that security forces were hunting General Asamnew but that a number of other plotters had been arrested.

In one attack in the coup attempt, the army chief of staff, Seare Mekonnen, and retired general, were shot by Mr. Seare’s bodyguard at his home in the national capital, Addis Ababa, the prime minister’s office said

In a second assault, the president of Amhara, Ambachew Mekonnen; one of his advisers; and the area’s attorney general were shot in the region’s main city, Bahir Dar, the government said.

Access to the internet appeared to be blocked across Ethiopia, users reported. The streets of Addis Ababa appeared calm on Monday. Amhara, northwest of the capital, is home to Ethiopia’s second-largest ethnic group and gives its name to the state language, Amharic.

Ethiopia will observe a day of national mourning on Monday, the speaker of Parliament, Tagesse Chafo, said on state television.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed of Ethiopia has pushed through sweeping changes since coming to power in April last year, making peace with Eritrea, reining in the security services, releasing political prisoners and lifting bans on some outlawed separatist groups.

He has won widespread international praise for his efforts, but his shake-ups of the military and intelligence services have earned him powerful enemies at home. At the same time, his government is struggling to contain powerful figures in Ethiopia’s myriad ethnic groups who are fighting the federal government and each other for greater influence and resources.

The shooting in Bahir Dar occurred when Mr. Ambachew, an ally of Mr. Abiy’s, was holding a meeting to decide how to stop General Asamnew’s open recruitment of ethnic Amhara militias, one Addis Ababa-based official told Reuters.

The general had told the Amhara people to arm themselves and prepare for fighting against other groups, in a video spread on Facebook a week earlier. General Asamnew was released from prison last year after receiving an amnesty for a similar coup attempt.

William Davison, an Ethiopia analyst at the research organization Crisis Group, said more information was needed on the attack on Mr. Seare, the army chief.

“It doesn’t appear to have been a concerted national coup attempt,” Mr. Davison said. “It’s not obvious what the motivations were for anyone to assassinate the chief of staff, or whether he had any connections to the violence in Bahir Dar,” he said. “More detail is needed on that aspect.”

Long-simmering ethnic tensions in Amhara and other areas have surged since Mr. Abiy enacted his overhauls. At least 2.4 million people have fled fighting, according to the United Nations.

Ethiopia is scheduled to hold parliamentary elections next year, although the electoral board warned this month that they were behind schedule and that instability could cause a problem for polling.


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