There were no deaths after a grenade blast rocked the first rally of Ethiopian Prime Minister, Abiy Ahmed’s in the capital, which was attended by tens of thousands of people.
Abiy had just wrapped up his speech in the heart of Addis Ababa when the explosion went off, sending panicked crowds 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.
He said: “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.
“Some whose heart is filled with hate attempted a grenade attackd, vowing that the perpetrators will be brought to justice.”
The cause of the blast was unknown and further details on the casualties were not immediately available.
Police fired tear gas as they moved in to clear Meskel square where the rally was held, the AFP correspondent said.
It 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 on Saturday, dressed in a green T-shirt and a hat.
After the blast, dozens of people stormed the stage, hurling various objects at police, shouting: “Woyane down, down,” and “Woyane thief”, using a pejorative term for the government, the AFP correspondent said.