Ethiopia charges 5 with terrorism over assassination attempt

Ethiopia’s attorney general on Friday filed terrorism charges against five people accused of trying to “kill the prime minister” at a huge rally in the capital in June, barely two months after the reformist leader took office.

The charges say the five acted on the premise that Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed is not popular among Oromos, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic group, and wanted to pave the way for the once-banned Oromo Liberation Front.

That group’s leaders recently returned after Abiy’s government in July removed it from a terror list and invited all exiled groups to participate in politics.

Abiy, Ethiopia’s first prime minister from the Oromo ethnic group, has announced sweeping and largely popular reforms since taking office in April, but ethnic tensions in Africa’s second most populous country pose his biggest challenge.

A bomb thrown at the stage while Abiy waved to the crowd of tens of thousands in Addis Ababa’s Meskel Square on June 23 killed two people and wounded more than 150.

Some of the attack’s collaborators remain at large, including a woman who lives in neighboring Kenya and allegedly masterminded it, the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate reported Friday.

It said the suspects wore T-shirts bearing the prime minister’s image to disguise themselves as supporters.

At the time of the bombing, Abiy called it a “well-orchestrated attack” but one that failed.

Ethiopia’s ruling coalition, which came to power in 1991, holds its congress next week and is expected to take the next steps in implementing the political and economic reforms that include opening up state-run enterprises to investment and preparing for elections in 2020.