The suspected ringleader of Saturday’s failed coup attempt in Ethiopia’s Amhara region is on the run, a senior security official has told the BBC.

Six people, including the bodyguard who killed the army chief, are now known to have died in the unrest.

Flags are flying at half-mast after the federal government declared a day of mourning to mark the deaths.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has urged Ethiopians to unite against “evil” forces set on dividing the country.

Both the army chief Gen Seare Mekonnen and Amhara governor Ambachew Mekonnen, who was also killed, were seen as close allies of the prime minister.

A heavy contingent of pro-government forces has been deployed in Amhara’s capital, Bahir Dar, and the federal capital, Addis Ababa.

The internet has been shut across the country, days after services resumed following an unexplained blackout of more than a week.

The US state department has warned its staff in Addis Ababa to stay inside.

Ethnic violence has hit Amhara and other parts of Ethiopia in recent years.

Since his election last year, Mr Abiy has transformed Ethiopia.

He has moved to end political repression by releasing political prisoners, removed bans on opposition political parties, overseen the prosecution of officials accused of human rights abuses and also restored diplomatic relations with Ethiopia’s long-time enemy, Eritrea.

Mr Abiy survived a grenade attack at a rally a year ago on Sunday, which killed two people and left more than 100 injured.

Africa’s oldest independent country, Ethiopia is also the continent’s second most populous after Nigeria, with 102.5 million inhabitants from more than 80 different ethnic groups.

A transfer hub for long-haul air travel, it has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, but a vast number of young Ethiopians are without work.

Who is the alleged ringleader?
Mr Abiy’s office has accused Amhara’s regional security chief, Brig-Gen Asaminew Tsige, of being behind the coup attempt.

His whereabouts are unknown, and he is on the run, Amhara regional deputy head of security Gedebe Hailu told the BBC.

Brig-Gen Asaminew was among a group of high-ranking military officers released from prison early last year when the previous government moved to free political detainees in response to public pressure.

The general had been in custody for nine years for allegedly plotting a coup.

According to Reuters news agency, Amhara’s top officials had convened a meeting on Saturday to discuss attempts by the general to recruit ethnic militias.

Brig-Gen Asaminew openly advised the Amhara people this month to arm themselves, in a video spread on Facebook and seen by a Reuters reporter. – BBC

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