Ethiopia PM Abiy Ahmed names Amhara security chief Asaminew Tsige as the chief suspect in an "attempted coup" in the region that left its president, top adviser, and attorney general dead on Saturday.

In this handout videograb released by the Ethiopian TV broadcast, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addresses the public on TV on June 23, 2019 after a failed coup.
In this handout videograb released by the Ethiopian TV broadcast, Ethiopia's Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed addresses the public on TV on June 23, 2019 after a failed coup. (AFP)

The security chief of Ethiopia's northern Amhara state, suspected of being behind a coup bid in the region and of possible links to the assassination of the army chief, has been shot dead, state media reported on Monday.

"Asaminew Tsige, who has been in hiding since the failed coup attempt over the weekend has been shot dead" in the regional capital Bahir Dar, state broadcaster EBC reported.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's office had named Asaminew as the chief suspect in an "attempted coup" in Amhara that left the region's president, top adviser and attorney general dead on Saturday.

A few hours later in what the government said appeared to be a coordinated attack, the army chief Seare Mekonnen was killed by his bodyguard.

However details of links between the two attacks and their ultimate motive have not been made clear.

Asaminew was only last year released from almost a decade in prison over a 2009 coup plot under an amnesty.

Analysts describe him as a hardline Amhara nationalist who was likely facing removal from his job over efforts to form a militia and rhetoric pushing for territory in neighbouring Tigray to be reclaimed.

He recently appeared in a Facebook video calling for civilians to arm themselves in preparation for an attack.

TRT World's Reagan Des Vignes reports.

Deep political crisis

Amhara, in Ethiopia's northern highlands, is the homeland of the ethnic group by the same name, and the birthplace of many of its emperors as well as the national language Amharic.

The Amhara are the second-largest ethnic grouping after the Oromo, and both spearheaded two years of anti-government protests which led to the resignation of former prime minister Hailemariam Desalegn.

Abiy, an Oromo, took power in April 2018 and has been lauded for a string of efforts to reform a nation which has known only the authoritarian rule of emperors and strongmen.

He also sealed a peace deal with neighbouring Eritrea, a longtime foe.

Eritrea's Information Minister Yemane Meskel expressed his condolences over the killings on Twitter.

Longstanding tensions among more than 80 ethnic groups have burst into the open, often over land and resources in Africa's second most-populous nation, leaving over a million displaced in clashes.

Ethiopia's 1995 constitution, written by the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF) after it unseated the Derg military junta in 1991, partitioned the country into nine autonomous regions with borders following ethnic lines.

Observers say that Abiy's plans to hold an election in 2020 have stirred up bitter rivalries among politicians in the regions and seen a rise in ethno-nationalism.

Amhara is one of nine regional states in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia, a nation of 100 million people, 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.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies