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Ethiopia says plotter of failed coup is killed by military

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) — The Ethiopian army brigadier accused of leading a failed coup against a regional government has been killed in a firefight with the security forces, a spokesman for the Ethiopian prime minister’s office said Monday.

Brig. Gen. Asamnew Tsige was killed on the outskirts of Bahir Dar, capital of the restive northern Amhara region, Nigussu Tilahun told The Associated Press.

Ethiopian forces had been hunting down Asamnew since soldiers loyal to him on Saturday attacked a meeting of the Amhara government, killing the regional governor and his adviser. The regional attorney-general, wounded in that attack, died of his wounds on Monday, according to local media reports.

The attack in Bahir Dar was followed hours later by the assassination in the national capital, Addis Ababa, of the chief of Ethiopia’s military and a retired army general by a bodyguard.

The killings are widely seen as an attack on Ethiopia’s reformist Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who was elected last year.

An internet shutdown remains in force across Ethiopia following the Saturday killings.

Asamnew, the renegade brigadier blamed for the violence, had been pardoned by Abiy after being jailed by the previous government for allegedly plotting a coup. He had recently been inciting a rebellion by the people of Amhara in posts on social media, according to reports in Ethiopian media.

Addis Ababa was peaceful Monday as soldiers stood guard in Meskel Square and manned roadblocks throughout the capital.

The 42-year-old Abiy has captured the imagination of many with sweeping political and economic reforms, including the surprise acceptance of a peace agreement with Eritrea, the opening of major state-owned sectors to private investment and the release of thousands of prisoners, including opposition figures once sentenced to death.

Although Abiy’s reforms are widely popular, some members of the previous regime are unhappy with the changes and the prime minister has survived a couple of threats.

Last June, a grenade meant for Abiy killed two people and wounded many others at a big rally. Nine police officials were arrested, state media reported. In October, rebellious soldiers protested over pay and invaded Abiy’s office, but the prime minister was able to defuse the situation.

Ethiopia is a key regional ally of the U.S. in the restive Horn of Africa region.

Tibor Nagy, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa, said the latest violence was a “shock, but it could have turned out so much worse,” adding: “Thankfully Prime Minister Abiy escaped this attempt, because there are many, many more people in Ethiopia who support his reforms than those who are opposed to them.”

Speaking in South Africa on Sunday, Nagy said that “there are vestiges of the old regime” who are opposed to Abiy.

“I wish I could say that this is will be the last of these attempts, but no one can be certain,” Nagy said.

Flags are flying at half-mast Monday, which has been declared a day of national mourning following Saturday’s violence.

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AP journalist Andrew Meldrum contributed to this report from Pretoria, South Africa.

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