Ethiopia

Ethiopia: Scores reported killed in student unrest

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ADDIS ABABA, 8 June (IRIN) - At least 20 people were reported killed and others wounded following an outbreak of violence in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, as students demonstrated against alleged fraud in recent elections, hospital sources said on Tuesday.

Police commander Mulgeta Shiferaw said the police had detained 520 students and protesters. A further 50 "hooligans" were also arrested, he added, without confirming the number of those killed.

The deaths, according to sources, occurred during clashes between Ethiopian security forces and the stone-throwing students as well as other protesters at the main University in Addis Ababa and at a nearby college.

Monday's violence was followed by similar clashes at two other college campuses on Tuesday, which riot police quickly broke up.

The students have accused the ruling Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front of election fraud after preliminary results showed that it had won the majority of provisional seats following elections on 15 May.

The army's special forces stood by, heavily armed with assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades. Riot police with tear gas and a water cannon were also present.

Parents stood outside the campuses on Monday and Tuesday trying to get information on their children.

The minister of information, Bereket Simon, said the main opposition, Coalition for Unity and Democracy (CUD) was behind the protests.

"They have been preaching violence and now they are instigating it," Bereket said. "The responsibility for what has happened falls on their shoulders."

However, the vice-chairman of the CUD, Berhanu Nega, denied Bereket's claim. He said the party had urged students to hold off protests.

"Our worry is that the ruling party will use these protests as an excuse to crack down and resort to force," Berhanu said.

European Union election observers have expressed concern over irregular vote counting and biased reports by the state-owned media.

Ethiopia's political parties are challenging the results of 55 percent of the May poll. Investigations would determine whether it was necessary to hold a repeat vote for the 299 disputed seats before July 8, when full, ratified results are expected to be released.

Provisional results showed the ruling party had so far won 302 seats and its allies had taken another 26. Opposition parties had won 194 seats in the 547-seat lower house of parliament. They had previously held 12 seats.

The opposition and ruling parties have alleged that gunmen intimidated voters; people were forced to vote for certain parties; ballot boxes were stuffed or disappeared and the number of ballots in some constituencies exceeded the number of registered voters.

Opposition parties have vowed to stage mass protests if the provisional results are validated.

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