Addis Abeba, August 01/2019 – Briefing local journalists this afternoon, Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said that a cellular record of the main suspect held in connection with the fatal shooting of army chief of staff, Gen. Seare Mekonnen & Maj-Gen. Gezai Abera (rtd) on June 22 showed the suspect has received a phone call from a third person in which he was informed of the killings of Amhara regional state president Ambachew Mekonnen and two others in Bahir Dar on the same night.
Although the government initially made the allegation on the link between the killing in Bahir Dar and that of Addis Abeba, it later on backtracked when on June 27 a statement by the task-force established to investigate the killings said investigations were underway to determine on whether or not the two killings were linked. The Prime Minister’s statement today imply a connection between the two.
PM Abiy also said that intelligence reports show more people, including army generals, were targeted for killings in what the government still maintains was a “failed coup attempt.” PM Abiy’s statement coroborate a news report by Wazema Radio, a reliable independent podcast. Citing its anonymous sources with knowledge to the matter Wazema reported on June 27 that the attacks were more coordinated than were anticipated and that military institutions in the capital Addis Abeba were targeted.
Without getting into details PM Abiy said that the suspect who was held in connection with the killing in Addis Abeba was currently undergoing medical treatment for injuries he sustained around his neck. The third person, unnamed by the PM, and who was on the phone conversation allegedly informing the main suspect of the killings in Bahir Dar, is also in police custody, PM Abiy said, adding that although the entire plot has been handled in a short period of time, it should not be seen lightly; it was also an attempt to force the government to revert back to its authoritarian instinct.
On June 27, a statement issued by a “Security and Justice Task-force”, a task force formed in the wake of the assassinations, has named the suspect Private Mesafint Tigabu, one of Gen Seare’s security details. The statement said at the time that the suspect was “injured by federal security forces and is under arrest.”
Some 350 people were arrested in connection with the killing, PM Abiy said. On Saturday July 27, Amhara regional state police said that 57 more suspects who were held in connection with the killings were released, bringing the number of suspects released to 160 out of 218 held in the regional state. Among those who are still in police custody is Bir-Gen Tefera Mamo, head of the region’s special force until his arrest.
Several arrests were also made in Addis Abeba and elsewhere in the country. Suspects include members of National Movement of Amhara (NaMA), which said more than 100 of its members were detained including Christian Tadele and Belete Kassa, NaMA public relations officer and secretariat respectively. Christian was arrested on July 11 whereas Belete was arrested on July 26 in Addis Abeba. On July 30, 26 of those held in Addis Abeba were released on bail ranging from 2000 to 3000 birr.
Others remain in custody with the police saying they seek to bring terrorism charges. Responding to questions on allegations of rights abuses of the detainees while in police custody, PM Abiy dismissed the allegations as unsubstantiated. AS