News: Security forces detain 76 “leading” suspects after police officer “accidentally discharged” teargas at Eid prayer in Addis

Demelash Gebremichael, the commissioner general of the Federal Police Commission. Picture: Federal Police Commission

By Getahun Tsegaye @GetahunTsegay12

Addis Abeba: Peace and Security Joint Task Force announced yesterday that it arrested 76 suspects accusing them of “leading involvement in the riots and violence” during the Eid al-Fitr prayers held in Addis Abeba on 02 May.

The Eid prayers at Addis Abeba Stadium and its environs were disrupted yesterday after gunshots and teargas were discharged in the midst of crowded places. Addis Standard journalists who were on the scene confirmed that blasts were heard when prayers commenced, prompting the attendees to run in different directions. Later on multiple eyewitness reveal that a teargas was discharged in the midst of women worshipers, causing anger, panic and chaos at the scene where hundreds of thousands of Muslims were gathered to observe the end of the one month long Ramadan. Dozens were children were separated from their mothers and women were seen distraught and running in all directions. Others were trying to calm angry crowds. Harun Media used its Facebook page to reconnect separated children with their families; a volunteer drop off station was quickly organized inside the German Mosque in Mexico Square where missing kids were taken care of and contacts and names of families were published and posted. As of the publishing of this news, all children are reported to be reunited with their families between yesterday and today, except for one child.

Meanwhile, successive statements released by the government on the same day, including by the Addis Abeba City Administration, blamed the incident on “Ethiopia’s historical enemies,” who are bent on destroying the country.

“I tried to find out, I was told by a relevant security official, and concerned commissioner that the federal police officer had accidentally discharged [the teargas]”

Ustaz Abubeker Ahmed

Ustaz Abubeker Ahmed said that he has confirmed from security officials that a police officer, who later on apologized, said he has “accidentally discharged” the teargas. “It was a very nice and beautiful Eid, but this incident came and disturbed a few things,” Ustaz Abubeker told VOA Amharic. He also said that there were few individuals who were admitted to hospital for injuries sustained.

“I tried to find out, I was told by a relevant security official, and concerned commissioner that the federal police officer had accidentally discharged [the teargas],” he said.

One of witnesses who were on the scene and spoke to Addis Standard yesterday was Nedir. “We heard six gunshots near Hyatt Regency. There were teargas as well,” he said. According to him, the shots were from security forces.

The statement by the task force however said that what happened was against the dogma of the religion [Islam], was instigated by a few individuals “who had an agenda of disruption and riots, instigated violence” near the Martyr’s memorial, known by its official name Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum. The Task force further accused the suspects of “inflicting damage on security forces and properties,” and said the 76 detained were “leading suspects.”  

The Task Force also said there were some individuals and groups who resorted to “revenge and hatred”, and accused them of taking missions from “internal and external enemies” to dismantle Ethiopia’s religious co-existence and to destroy the country. 

Without providing further details, the Task Force also said the detainees were “anti-peace individuals and groups who came to the Eid prayer to carry out attacks and revenge under the guise of religion,” and claimed that these suspects “carried sharp objects, foreign extremist emblems and various banners with provocative messages.”  The task force pledged that it would hunt down and prosecute other participants in connection with the matter. AS

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