Ethiopia's ruling Military Council has reported the death of nearly 360 "counter revolutionary outlaws" and the wounding of another 132 in the past week in sharp escalation of fighting throughout the country between pro- and anti-government forces.
It was the highest number of casualties ever reported in one week by the official Ethiopian media since the military toppled the late Emperor Haile Selassie and tool power 30 months ago, and tended to confirm the impression of all outsiders here that the struggle between supporters and opponents of the new Marxist Ethiopian regime has greatly intensified in many parts of the country in the past month.
Friday, the Military Council's chairman, Lt. Col. Megistu Haile Mariam, said publicly that "many lives re being shed" presently in a "life-and-death struggle" between "true revolutionaries" and internal and external "revolutionary forces" opposed to Ethiopia's two-year-old socialist revolution.
He said the struggle requires crushing the latter's "white terror" and replacing it by the revolution's own "red terror," with a view of establishing a "people's democratic republic."
Here in the capital, the government handed out arms last weekend to 600 workers and members of the city's neighborhood dwellers' associations in its campaign to combat the daily assassination of pro-government officials, labor union leaders and students by the underground Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party.
This opposition group appears to be as Marxist-Leninist in its ideology as the military government, but it is vehemently opposed to military rule. It claims to have between 700 and 1,000 armed urban guerrillas operating here in Addis Ababa.
The government's arming of workers and the neighborhood associations immediately led to bloody strife last week in the Akaki industrial sector of the city and to widespread nighttime shootings. Unconfirmed reports said that as many as 70 workers died in fighting inside half a dozen factories.
The official media only disclosed that 30 "paid agents" of various opposition groups - the Revolutionary Party, the anti-Marxist Ethiopian Democratic Union, and the Eritrean Liberation Front, the secessionist group fighting in Ethiopia's northermost province - had been unmasked in two factories. It did not indicate whether "revolutionary measures," the euphemism here for execution, had been taken against them.
Today, however, the Ethiopian News Agency reported that four persons, including a British university lecturer, William Hastings Morton, and a well-known Ethiopian professor, Nega Ayele, were killed in the Akaki sector Thursday while allegedly attempting to escape a workers' defense squad.It said the four had been taking pictures of a factory and were involved in espionage activities.
The agency said Morton was ordered to stop but refused and was then killed in an ensuing "shootout." Other sources, however, said there was no shootout and that Morton was shot dead as he emerged from his car with hands up.
Morton was the first foreigner to be killed in the current turmoil here. So far, foreign residents have generally been left alone by all the warring factions, although there is widespread anxiety because of the frequent shootings.
Meanwhile, six more assassinated labor officials were buried here this weekend.
For their part, pro-government forces killed an undetermined number of Revolutionary Party students and other opposition members last week in an intensive manhunt being conducted by the defense squads of the 291 neighborhood dwellers' Associations, or Kebeles, here in the capital. In some instances, these squads, which number 15 to 20 members, are going houses by house in search of anti-government elements and executing those who are caught on the spot.
Elsewhere in the country, the government reported yesterday that its forces in the northwest province of Begemdir, had scored a major victory over the Ethiopian Democratic Union army, and killing 268 "counterrevolutionary outlaws" and wounding 132 others during a seven-day "hunt down operation."
Most of the fighting was apparently around the town of Metemma on the Sudanese border. The Democratic Union claims to have the town surrounded and to have taken control of its airport at one point two weeks ago. The army has reinforced its garrison there.
The Democratic Union is reported to have an army of around 6,000 men, mostly concentrated in Begemdir Province, and to be fighting on five different fronts against government forces. It holds several towns, notably Humera on the Sudanese Border.
Other regions where fighting was reported last week included southern Bale Province, where 41 "outlaws" were killed; Arrusi, also in southern Ethiopia, where 14 died; Harrarghe, on the Somali border, where 24 were killed in two clashes; and Shoa, in central Ethiopia, where 14 were captured and four were subsequently executed.
Meanwhile, last night, the government began broadcasting violent attacks against the Sudanese government of President Jaafar Nimeri for his support of the Democratic Union and Eritrean Liberation Front over the nationalized Lutheran Radio Voice of the Gospel that has been renamed "Radio Voice of Revolutionary Ethiopia."
The former Lutheran-owned station, which has operated from Addis Ababa since 1961, is far more powerful than the government's transmitter and can be heard throughout most of Africa.