Support rally for Ethiopia's new PM Abiy Ahmed disrupted by grenade attack

File A blast was heard at a rally of Ethiopia's new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa on Saturday

File A blast was heard at a rally of Ethiopia's new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in Addis Ababa on Saturday

In an address broadcast afterwards on state television, Abiy said the incident was orchestrated by groups who wanted to undermine the rally, but he did not name them.

"Eritrea strongly condemns the attempt to incite violence in today's Addis Ababa demonstration for peace, (the) first of its kind in history of Ethiopia", its ambassador to Japan Estifano Afeworki tweeted.

The blast, thought to be from a grenade, was heard at a rally in Ethiopia's capital Addis Ababa on Saturday following a speech from the country's new leader Abiy Ahmed. "We ask the prime minister to now amend laws that restrict free speech and to end a system of surveillance that has always been used to intimidate journalists".

The premier's chief of staff Fitsum Arega said on his Twitter account that the blast was caused by a grenade attack.

Eritrea's longtime President Isaias Afwerki noted "positive signals" in recent days from Ethiopia and said the delegation will "gauge current developments directly and in depth" to plan future steps. Speaking to the country not long after the rally, Abiy referred to the attackers as "anti-peace forces".

An unknown individual threw a grenade during a rally for the Prime Minister that was attended by thousands of people in support of him.

Dramatic footage showed Abiy Ahmed being rushed from the scene in Addis Ababa's Meskel Square by security guards. Killing is a sign of defeat. Of the 83 injured, six are in critical condition.

Rally organizer Seyoum Teshome confirmed the prime minister had been the target of the attack.

Inaugurated in April, Abiy has embarked on a string of rapid reforms that have stunned the nation, including releasing tens of thousands of prisoners, replacing key generals in the army, dampening ethnic tensions in the country and promising to liberalize the economy.

"For the past 100 years hate has done a great deal of damage to us", he said, stressing the need for even more reforms.

Ginbot (May) 7 was founded in 2005 and named after the date of that year's elections, which were marred by protests over alleged fraud that led to the deaths of about 200 people.

Political rallies of Saturday's scale are rare in Ethiopia, where the EPRDF controls all seats in parliament and opposition parties complain of harassment.

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