Ethiopian head of state Brig. Gen. Teferi Bante and six senior members of the ruling military council were killed today when their plot to seize power from the council's majority was foiled, the government announced tonight.
Accounts differed as to whether the seven plotters were killed in a midmorning shootout at the government palace or were executed afterward.
The attempted coup is the latest in a string of violent episodes as the military revolution that overthrew Emperor Haile Selassie in 1974 has shifted direction and suffered bitter infighting.
Gen. Teferi is the second head of state to be killed in the power struggle. His predecessor, Lt, Gen, "Aman Andom, was shot to death at his home in November 1974 while allegedly resisting arrest.
The government announcement today singled out Capt. Alemayehu Haile as principal organizer of the coup attempt, which was seen as aimed against Col. Mengistu Hoile Mariam and Col. Atenafu Abate, first and second vice chairmen of the ruling council.
A Megistu supporter, Col. Daniel Asfaw, was reported to have been shot and killed by the plotters, who were also said to have wounded two other military council members and a highranking civiliam Politburo member.
Mengistu and Atenafu, who have been at loggerheads recently, both escaped the coup, the announcement said.
Mengistu has been the strongman of the regime since it deposed the emperor, who died in captivity, but there had been signs recently that his power was weakening.
Besides Gen. Teferi and Capt. Alemayehu, who was secretary general of the newly formed three-level government structure, the government announcement said the other plotters who were killed were Capt. Mogus Wolde-Michael, Col. Asrat Desta, Col. Hiru Haile Selassie, Capt. Tefera Dneke and Corp. Hailu Belay. All were members of the 17-man standing committee of the ruling military group called the Dergue.
Mogus and Alemayehu were said to have been behind recent moves to trim Mengistu's power.
The first word of the attempted coup came about noon, following a brief but heavy mid-morning shootout inside the government palace.
Tonight's communique accused the seven plotters of having allied themselves with the leftist Ethiopian aPeople's Revolutionary Party and the rightist Ethopian Demoncratic Union.
The former has recently been accused of carrying on a campaign of assassinations against high-ranking government officials and government supporters.Last night the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Youth, Tsegaye Debalke, was shot to death at his home. The EPRP was also accused of killing a 16-year-old schoolboy and six other persons yesterday.
The Demoncratic Union, made up largely of former officers and officials who have fled the country, scored some important victories against Ethiopian forces near the border with Sudan in the past two yeweeks.
Today's attempted coup follows by only a few weeks a Major reorganization of the ruling council's structure, in which the roles of Teferi and Alemayehu were strengthened and that of Mengistu was weakened.
Only four days ago, Teferi, speaking to a rally in support of the armed forces, called for the formation of a united political party to protect the revolution. He said that political rivalry was leading to economic sabotage.
Besides strenghtening Mengistu and opening the door to a renewed power struggle between him and Atenafu, today's events are seen here as strenghtening the position of the country's political structure and for mass political education.
Polburo members have been special targets of assassination squads in recent months, and tonight's communique implies that a major campaign to eradicate the leftist EPRP will soon get under way. It attributed the group's success to protection it received from members of the ruling council, presumably meaning the plotters killed today.
A general meeting of officials of the Urban Dwellers Association - which has increasingly been in charge of security in the cities - has been called for Friday.
The capital remained calm throughout today's incident. The shooting which lasted for about an hour in the late morning, was all inside the compound of the government palace where the ruling council has its head-quarters.
Offices and stores remained open throughout the day, and the city was only lightly patrolled for much of the late afternoon.