Dozens of deaths during stampede at Ethiopia religious event

BISHOFTU, Ethiopia (AP) — Several dozen people died in a stampede Sunday morning when a religious celebration in Ethiopia turned into an anti-government protest that led police to fire tear gas and rubber bullets.

An estimated two million people were attending the annual Irrecha event in Bishoftu town southeast of the capital, Addis Ababa. The event took place in one of the country’s most sensitive regions, Oromia, which has seen several months of sometimes deadly protests demanding wider freedoms.

Ethiopia’s government acknowledged deaths during the event and, though a spokesman, blamed “people that prepared to cause trouble” for the chaos. The spokesman’s office said many people were taken to hospitals, but it did not provide any figures.

Witnesses said police dispersed protesters chanting anti-government slogans as they pushed toward a stage where religious leaders were speaking. Some threw rocks and plastic bottles.

As festival goers fled, some were crushed in nearby ditches.

An Associated Press reporter saw people holding up crossed wrists in a popular gesture of anti-government protest and police firing tear gas. The reporter also saw several injured people.

The months of anti-government protests in several parts of Ethiopia and the sometimes harsh government response has raised international concern. The United States recently spoke out against what it called the excessive use of force against protesters.

NBC4i.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s