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Ethiopia opposition demands to know fate of leaders

06 September 2016, 14:01

Addis Ababa - Ethiopian opposition activists have demanded to know the status of their political leaders who are being held in the Quilinto prison after a fire broke out on Saturday, BBC reports.

Authorities have failed to disclose any substantial information on the exact details of what transpired in the fire over the weekend where the political figures were being held ahead of court appearances.

The government released a statement saying that 23 people had died, 21 due to suffocation, with two others being shot as they tried to escape.

The opposition Oromo Federalist Congress said that it had so far been given no information on what happened to six of its leaders being held on remand.

The activists  first raised concerns about the fire over the weekend, with the the government originally saying only one person had died.

Political and economic freedoms 

The latest government statement did not disclose how the fire began. It only stated that an investigation had begun.

The jail, Qilinti, was on the outskirts of the capital Addis Ababa and was used to imprison leaders of the Oromo ethnic group, among others.

Members of the Oromo community have been leading demonstrations against the government, demanding more political and economic freedoms.

Citing sources, Addis Fortune, said that the fire had been deliberately started as part of an escape attempt and said that police had taken control of the facility from prison officers.

According to the New York-based Human Rights Watch group, at least 500 people have been killed by security forces since the protests began in November. Although demonstrations started among the Oromo, Ethiopia's biggest ethnic group, they later spread to the Amhara, the second most populous group.

Both groups claimed that a ruling coalition was dominated by the Tigray ethnic group, which was made up a mere 6% of the population.

- News 24


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