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Saturday, November 05, 2005

Political Violence Continues in Northern Ethiopia

inq7.net -- Sporadic violence was reported in northern Ethiopia on Saturday after four days of political unrest left at least 46 people dead and more than 200 injured, witnesses and diplomats said.

No fatalities were reported Saturday in skirmishes in Debre Berhan town, 150 kilometers (93 miles) north of Addis Ababa, as police fought opposition supporters protesting against alleged fraud in May elections.

Witnesses said calm had returned to Bahar Dar town, some 400 kilometers northwest of the capital, where violence on Friday claimed the lives of at least four people and left 11 others injured.

A heavy security presence was reported in Bahar Dar but businesses remained closed and public transport vehicles were off the streets. Residents kept out of the town center.

In Debre Berhan however a diplomat said the situation was "still very tense".

"People clashed with the police and there were gunshots," the diplomat told AFP.

the fifth day in Addis Ababa, where security forces patrolled the deserted streets.

Gun shots were heard overnight in the Mercato district as police carried out more arrests, according to diplomats. It was unclear how many people had been detained.

Residents said violence could continue if the government failed to release or charge opposition officials who had been detained in relation to the unrest.

"We are all waiting for Monday to see what will happen. If they release or bring the leaders of the CUD (opposition Coalition for Unity and Democracy) to court, then it is going to be quiet," said a taxi driver.

"If not, I don't think people will stop (rioting). The situation is very bad, people have been killed. They are still ready to resist and fight for their rights. How shall we accept all this injustice?"

Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Friday blamed the CUD, whose top leaders have been arrested, for the violence.

"The CUD is responsible for the damage and loss of life that has occurred in the capital in the last three days," Meles said on state television.

The opposition party has become increasingly vocal in its claims that elections held on May 15 were rigged by Meles' Ethiopian Peoples' Revolution Democratic Front (EPRDF) coalition.

The CUD, which officially won 109 of about 370 parliamentary seats, is boycotting the legislature and its deputies were last month stripped of their parliamentary immunity amid allegations of plotting to overthrow the government.

The government has also begun a press clampdown with the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) saying Ethiopian authorities have detained two editors and ordered private newspapers to close.

This week's protests followed similar unrest that hit the poverty-stricken Horn of African nation, home to about 70 million people, in June after the hotly contested May elections.

At least 37 people were killed in riots in the capital in June.

The African Union and the United States have called for calm and urged both sides to resolve their problems through dialogue.

Ethiopia is also faced with the risk of war against its northern neighbor, Eritrea, over an unresolved border issue.

Tension between them has heightened in recent weeks with both sides moving troops near the border, a move that has caused deep concern within the international community.

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