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Ethiopia's army chief of staff and regional officials killed in foiled coup attempt

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Ethiopia's army chief of staff and regional officials killed in foiled coup attempt
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REUTERS/Tiksa Negeri
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Ethiopia's army chief of staff and the regional president of the northern state of Amhara were killed in two attacks when a general tried to seize control of Amhara in an attempted coup, the prime minister's press secretary said on Sunday.

Amhara state president Ambachew Mekonnen and his advisor were shot dead and the state's attorney general was wounded in Amhara's capital of Bahir Dar, said a statement from the office of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.

In a separate but related attack, Ethiopia's army Chief of Staff Seare Mekonnen and another retired general were shot dead in Seare's home in Addis Ababa by his bodyguard.

The prime minister's office named Amhara state security head General Asamnew Tsige as the one responsible for the foiled coup.

Early on Sunday, Brigadier General Tefera Mamo, the head of special forces in Amhara, told state television that "most of the people who attempted the coup have been arrested, although there are a few still at large."But did not give details about Asamnew.

The developments underscore the challenges facing Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, as he tries to spearhead political reforms amid widespread unrest in the Horn of Africa nation of 100 million people.

Appearing on state TV late on Saturday, Abiy said some of officials of the Amhara government were in a meeting when a coup attempt occurred.

"There are a few people who were killed while others were injured," Abiy said.

Early on Sunday, Brigadier General Tefera Mamo, the head of special forces in Amhara, told state television that "most of the people who attempted the coup have been arrested, although there are a few still at large."

Residents in Amhara's capital Bahir Dar said late on Saturday there was gunfire in some neighbourhoods and some roads had been closed off.

Since coming to power in April last year, Abiy has pushed to open up the once isolated, security-obsessed country. His government has released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties and prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses.

However, ethnic violence - long held in check by the state's iron grip - has flared up in many areas, including Amhara, where the regional government was led by Ambachew Mekonnen.

Ethiopia is due to hold a national parliamentary election next year. Several opposition groups have called for the polls to be held on time despite the unrest and displacement.

(Writing by Elias Biryabarema; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)

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