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News: Gunshots, teargas disrupt Eid prayers in Addis Abeba as worshipers scramble in confusion, families separated

Women and children were seen running from the scene in distress. Photo: Screenshot

By Addis Standard Staff

Addis Abeba – Today’s Eid al-Fitr prayers at Addis Abeba Stadium, in the capital Addis Abeba, were disrupted 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.

Several women were seen visibly distraught after being separated with their children. Harun Media used its Facebook page to reconnect separated children with their families. What prompted the gunshots and the teargas was not immediately clear, and a short statement by the city police simply described it as “unrest instigated by a few individuals.” The event was being attended by hundreds of thousands of Muslims from the city.

”The police were telling the people that everything was fine, to return to their prayers, but the blasts continued to be heard,” Mohammed, a witness who was at the stadium said, adding,  “I didn’t see any injuries but many children were separated from their parents.” The eyewitness also noted that all the mosques that traditionally perform Eid prayers were closed today. 

Nedir, another witness who spoke to Addis Standard said, “We heard six gunshots near Hyatt  Regency. There were teargas as well,” he said. According to him, the shots were from security forces and said he wasn’t sure if there were any deaths or casualties.

Another witness who told Addis Standard on the conditions of anonymity said that the violence started when some Muslims tried to pray in an area where such religious practices are prohibited,” adding, “Only teargas was fired not any bullets,” he said.

Addis Standard spoke to an attendee of the prayers who corroborated the statements by other witnesses that she heard gunshots and tear gas being launched at the prayer. The worshiper who was returning from the stadium added that people were bleeding. Addis Standard saw several people including children returning from the prayers walking barefoot around Megenagna. 

In a short statement, Addis Abeba police said there was “property damage” after “unrest instigated by a few individuals” near the Martyr’s Statue, known by its official name “Red Terror Martyrs’ Memorial Museum, before Eid prayers were conducted. The Memorial Museum is located near Meskel Square.

The statement did not say if the police discharged weapons or teargas but said worshipers were “now returning home calmly” and called on the public “to calm down and protect themselves and their environment.” Further notice will be announced to the public, the city’s Police said.

Mohammed however insists that there were no riots on the scene. Addis Standard’s attempts to speak to the public relations head of Addis Abeba Police Commission, Commander Fasika Fente, were to no avail. AS

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