Five charged in connection with Ethiopian grenade attack

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Ethiopia’s attorney general filed terrorism charges against five suspects held for involvement in a grenade attack at a rally attended by Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in June.

Two people were killed and scores wounded in the explosion in the centre of Addis Ababa on June 23 close to a stage just after a speech by Abiy to thousands of supporters.

Charges brought to court accused the suspects of “targeting the prime minister” with the aim of “preventing his administration from governing the country,” the attorney general’s office said in a statement.

Abiy, the first ethnic Oromo leader in the diverse country’s modern history, has pursued a reconciliation strategy since taking power in April.

This included pardoning the exiled Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), which waged an insurgency for self-determination for Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group.

The five suspects “operated under the OLF’s name” with the intention of “giving the impression Abiy lacked acceptance amongst Oromos”, the charges stated.

OLF officials were not immediately available for comment.

Ethiopia’s Oromo, who make up about a third of the 100 million population have long complained of being politically marginalised.

In 2015, mass protests broke out in Oromiya province over land rights. They evolved into anti-government unrest, before paving the way for Abiy to be appointed premier.

Abiy has since presided over widespread reforms including pardoning of dissidents and kickstarting partial privatisation of major state enterprises.

Amid reforms, the exiled leadership of the OLF – previously declared a “terrorist organisation” by government – returned to Ethiopia last month in a bid to participate in domestic politics.

Reforms have coincided with increased ethnic violence. Nearly a million people were displaced in southern Ethiopia in clashes in April.

Mob attacks against minorities surged – dozens of people died near the capital last month in violence that escalated the day of a rally held to mark the return of OLF leadership.