The deputy commissioner of police in charge of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital city, has been arrested following Saturday’s grenade attack on Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed at a rally, state media reports.
The officer was among nine senior police officials arrested for failing to prevent the thwarted grenade attack at a rally in support of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia Broadcasting Corporation (EBC) said.
The Ethiopian Communications Cabinet minister, Mr Ahmed Shide, said the nine senior police officials include deputy Addis Ababa Police Commissioner and senior officials from Federal Police Commission, reported EBC.
The bomb attack at the mass rally in support of the Ethiopian PM left at least one person dead and scores injured.
Speaking to EBC earlier on Saturday, Zeynu Jemal, head of Ethiopia Federal Police Commissioner, said several people had been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the grenade attack.
Mr Ahmed had just wrapped up his speech in the heart of Addis Ababa before tens of thousands of people when the explosion went off, sending droves of supporters towards the stage as the prime minister left hurriedly, an AFP correspondent said.
In an address broadcast afterwards on state television, Abiy said the blast was orchestrated by groups who wanted to undermine the rally but did not name them.
“The people who did this are anti-peace forces. You need to stop doing this. You weren’t successful in the past and you won’t be successful in the future.”
He said several people had been killed, but his chief of staff Fitsum Arega later said on Twitter that there were no deaths.
“As of now, based on reports from police and hospitals, 83 people are injured. Of the 83 injured, six are in critical condition. No death so far has been reported,” Arega said.
“Some whose heart is filled with hate attempted a grenade attack,” he added, vowing that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.
“The people who did this are anti-peace forces. You need to stop doing this. You weren’t successful in the past and you won’t be successful in the future,” he said.
The AFP correspondent said the blast happened stage right from Abiy and sent up a small puff of black smoke.
More than 100 people then stormed the stage, hurling various objects at police, shouting: “Down, down Woyane,” and “Woyane thief”, using a pejorative term for the government, the AFP correspondent said.
Police later used tear gas to clear the area, while an AFP photographer saw two men and two women taken into custody on suspicion of being involved with the blast.
The rally in the central Meskel Square was Abiy’s first public speech in the capital since he took office in April, although he has made several in provincial areas.
In the past three months, Abiy has made major changes in Ethiopia including shaking up the security services, releasing jailed dissidents, moving to liberalise the economy and to resolve a two-decade conflict with arch-enemy Eritrea.
“Ethiopia will be on top again, and the foundations will be love, unity and inclusivity,” he declared, dressed in a green T-shirt and a hat.