Ethiopia arrests 400 as govt defends response to deadly ethnic violence

Christian Orthodox faithful pray at the Holy Trinity Church in Addis Ababa at the memorial service for the victims of last week’s violence in the capital and in the Oromia region. (AFP)
Updated 31 October 2019

Ethiopia arrests 400 as govt defends response to deadly ethnic violence

  • The activist at the center of the protests, Jawar Mohammed, is credited with helping to sweep Abiy to power last year but he has recently become critical of some of the premier’s policies
  • Both men are from the Oromo ethnic group, the country’s largest, and their feud highlights divisions within Abiy’s Oromo support base

ADDIS ABABA: More than 400 people have been arrested in Ethiopia during investigations into ethnic and religious violence that left 78 people dead last week, a spokeswoman for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said Thursday.
Protests against Abiy erupted in Addis Ababa and in Ethiopia’s Oromia region on October 23 after a high-profile activist accused security forces of trying to orchestrate an attack against him — a claim police denied.
The unrest quickly devolved into ethnic and religious clashes that killed dozens of people over three days.
“The latest information that I have in terms of perpetrators that have been apprehended is 409 individuals,” spokeswoman Billene Seyoum told a press conference.
She said investigations were ongoing and that more suspects could be taken into custody.
Billene said Thursday that the death toll had climbed to 78 — up from the figure of 67 provided by a police official in Oromia last week.
Abiy, who came to power last year and was named this year’s Nobel Peace Prize laureate, has been criticized for his government’s response to the violence and specifically for waiting until the weekend to issue a statement.
Billene defended the response Thursday and dismissed descriptions of Abiy as “weak.”
Ethnic violence has been a recurring problem under Abiy, causing Ethiopia to record more displaced people than any other country last year.
Billene said the violence is the work of unnamed “elements” that oppose Abiy’s reform agenda, which has included freeing political prisoners and creating a more open political environment.
She also said the latest surge was partly a “backlash” against plans to transform Ethiopia’s ruling coalition — which has been in power for nearly three decades — into a single political party.
The activist at the center of last week’s protests, Jawar Mohammed, is credited with helping to sweep Abiy to power last year but he has recently become critical of some of the premier’s policies.
Both men are from the Oromo ethnic group, the country’s largest, and their feud highlights divisions within Abiy’s Oromo support base that could complicate his bid for a five-year term when Ethiopia votes in elections planned for May 2020.
Jawar, a media mogul, is highly divisive and accused by critics of fomenting ethnic divisions.
Abiy has faced pressure in recent days to take measures against Jawar, but Billene on Thursday declined to address whether the government held him responsible for the latest deaths.
“It’s not about naming or not naming, but it’s important for the due process of investigations to go through,” she said.


Daesh fighter stuck on Turkey-Greece borders returned to US

Updated 55 min 33 sec ago

Daesh fighter stuck on Turkey-Greece borders returned to US

  • Minister Suleyman Soylu: The American on the shared border with Greece has just been expelled from Istanbul by plane to the United States
  • The man, identified as Muhammad Darwis B, a US citizen of Jordanian descent, was captured in Syria on suspicion of ties to the Daesh group

ISTANBUL: A suspected US Daesh fighter, trapped for days between the Turkish and Greek borders, was sent back to the United States Friday, Turkey’s interior minister said.
“The American on the shared border with Greece has just been expelled from Istanbul by plane to the United States,” Suleyman Soylu was quoted as saying by Turkish media.
The man, identified as Muhammad Darwis B, a US citizen of Jordanian descent, was captured in Syria on suspicion of ties to the Daesh group, according to state news agency Anadolu.
Turkish authorities say the US had initially refused to accept him, and that he chose deportation to Greece, only for Greek authorities to refuse him entry on Monday.
He was trapped in no-man’s land between the borders, next to Turkey’s northeastern province of Edirne, though Turkish border guards gave him food and a car to sleep in at night, according to Anadolu.
There was an apparent breakthrough on Thursday, when Turkey said the US “committed to taking him back.”
Turkey has criticized Western countries for not taking back captured members of Daesh, and has lately publicized its efforts to deport extremists back to their countries of origin.
It follows criticism of Turkey’s offensive last month against Kurdish militants in northern Syria, which Western governments complained would undermine the fight against Daesh.
Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said last week that Turkey had nearly 1,200 foreign members of Daesh in custody, and had captured 287 during the offensive in Syria.
The Hurriyet newspaper said Wednesday that 959 suspects were being prepared for deportation, with the largest numbers coming from Iraq, Syria and Russia.