Ethiopia: ‘At least 50 killed’ in stampede as festival turns into chaos

Protestors run from tear gas launched by security personnel during the Irecha, the thanks giving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region, Ethiopia. (Reuters)

Ethiopia’s government said on Sunday several people died and others were injured in chaotic scenes at a festival near the capital, while the opposition party said the death toll was at least 50 in a stampede sparked by police action to break up a protest.

“As a result of the chaos, lives were lost and several of the injured were taken to hospital,” the government communications office said in a statement, without giving figures. “Those responsible will face justice.”

Demonstrators show the Oromo protest gesture sign during Irecha, the thanks giving festival of the Oromo people in Bishoftu town of Oromia region, Ethiopia. (Reuters)

Merera Gudina, chairperson of the opposition Oromo Federalist Congress, told Reuters at least 50 people were killed when people fled after police fired teargas and shots in the air to disperse anti-government protesters at the crowded festival.

The government and opposition often give different accounts for casualties during protests, which have erupted sporadically for about two years in the Oromiya region near Addis Ababa.

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