More than 25 peaceful Muslim protesters, including one child, have been killed and scores wounded on Friday by government forces marking the beginning of more religious violence and bloodshed in the country.
Muslims in the country have been holding peaceful protests and mosque sit-ins for close to two years over the regime’s continued intereference in the Ethiopia Islamic Affairs Supreme Council including handpicking political operatives as leaders of the country’s highest Muslim Affairs body.
However, the government announced last week through its media that any ongoing peaceful protests including sit-ins by Muslims in the country are no longer tolerated.
The ongoing crackdown throughout the country comes following the decree.
In Kofele, Edoo, Wabe, and Qore towns in West Arsi zone of Oromia region, for instance, left hospitals in Awassa and Shashamane crowded with wounded people.
According to eyewitness reports, the confrontation began after local Muslims requested the release of three Imams – Mohammed Abdalla, Abdulkadir H/Kadir and Mukhtar Safi – that have been arrested in Wabe town earlier this week.
In their attempt to begin a peaceful march early on Saturday morning from the town of Wabe to Kofele to petition regional administrators for the release of the arrested imams, federal police surround and opened fire killing six.
The violence quickly spread to the town of Shashamane resulting for the loss of another eleven people including the town’s police chief.
Eyewitness reports indicates that so far more than 1,600 peaceful Muslim protesters have been arrested leaving the restive towns of Dodola and Asasa to remain under military siege.
Activists say there is a widespread concern that next week’s Eid al-Fitr celebration that marks the end of holy month of Ramadan may see further protests and violence throughout the country.
Muslims make up 40 percent of the 90 million population in Africa’s second-most populous nation.