The Addis Ababa police commission has said more than 150 people were injured in Saturday’s explosion, at a massive rally at the Ethiopian capital’s Masqel Square.Health Minister Amir Aman confirmed to the media that one person died in a hospital, following the attack. At least one person was killed and 153 people were hurt, 10 critically, Aman said.
However, APA’s reporter who witnessed the incident believes the death toll could be higher as apparently lifeless and blood-stained victims were taken to hospitals.
“The prime minister was the target,” a rally organizer, Seyoum Teshome, told journalists. “An individual tried to hurl the grenade toward the stage where the prime minister was sitting, but was held back by the crowd.”
The explosion occurred as Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed waved to the cheering crowd of millions of people shortly after he made a strong appeal for unity, love and remorse.
The rally was held to support the reforms undertaken by the new Prime Minister, since he assumed office on April 2nd this year.
A witness near the scene of a deadly blast said the man who tried to throw the grenade was wearing a police uniform. Abraham Tilahun reportedly told the Associated Press that other police officers restrained the man from throwing the grenade. “Then we heard the explosion. I’m sure those who died there were also policemen who tried to prevent the attack.”
Addressing the nation minutes after he was rushed to safety, Abiy called the blast a “well-orchestrated attack.” In the televised speech shortly after being hurried to safety, the prime minister said “a few people” had been killed and others injured.
He said anti-unity elements had tried similar attacks, but did not succeed; that they do the same today, but failed and they will not succeed in the future too. The attack was “cheap and unacceptable,” the prime minister said, and added: “Love always wins. Killing others is a defeat. To those who tried to divide us, I want to tell you that you have not succeeded.”