A major crackdown on the underground Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party is under way after a government pledge to arm Ethiopian "progressives" to protect the country's "revolution."

The major targets of the government move so far have been students, in the past the most outspoken followers of the extreme leftist party.

Pledging to crush the People's Revolutionary Party, Lt. Col. Mengistu Haile Mariam, top-ranking man in the ruling military council, promised in a speech last Friday "to create terror in their camps as they did in ous."

Mengistu emerged more firmly as the Ethiopian strongman after a coup attempt last Thursday in which seven members of the ruling council, including head of state Brig. Gen. Teferi Bante, were killed. The seven were accused of being members of the People's Revolutionary Party and of having plotted to reverse the course of the country's revolution.

Last week's move and the crackdown on the People's Revolutionary have been well received within the armed forces, where Mengistuy appears to have strong support. Messages of congratulations have been pouring in since last Thursday from nearly all military units and the police.

Heads of state who expressed their support included President Fidel Castro of Cuba and Libyan President Muammar Qaddafi.

In the last few days Mengistu has received the ambassadors of the Soviet Union, China, East Germany, Hungary, Yugoslavia and South Yemen.

No African head of state has sent a message here and no African ambassador has seen Mengistu.

The ruling Council has been holding a plenary meeting since last Monday and is expected to announce the name of its new chairman and head of state soon.

Hundreds of persons, mainly students, were reported arrested in the past week. Among them was Acting Minister of Information Tesfaye Tadesse.

He was apparently suspected of having close relations with Col. Asrat Desta, the ruling council's chief of information, who was among those killed last Thursday.