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Ethiopia’s government announces arrests in killing of popular singer-activist

Ethiopia’s attorney general says two people have been arrested and a third is on the run after the shooting death of a popular singer that set off days of deadly unrest.

Attorney General Adanech Abebe in comments to state media Friday said the two had confessed, saying they had been instructed by rebel group Oromo Liberation Army to kill Hachalu Hundessa, with the goal of inciting anti-government emotions and causing tensions between Ethiopia’s largest ethnic groups, the Oromos and Amharas.

The singer had been a rallying voice in anti-government protests that led to Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed taking power in 2018.

Angry protests followed his death on June 29, and authorities have said at least 239 people were killed. The military was deployed, and the Oromia regional police commissioner on Friday said nearly 5,000 people had been arrested.

The unrest has posed the most serious challenge yet for the prime minister, himself an Oromo. Abiy was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for his political reforms.

Human rights groups have openly worried that those reforms are slipping amid intercommunal violence and alleged abuses by security forces.

The internet remains cut off in Ethiopia after the singer’s killing, complicating efforts to track the latest unrest.

The national mood was tense even before his death, as lawmakers early last month controversially extended their terms and scrapped national elections originally scheduled for August.

The decision, made due to COVID-19 concerns, mandated that an election occur no longer than nine to 12 months after health authorities determine it’s safe to hold a nationwide vote.

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