ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia — The Ethiopian army general accused of leading a failed coup in a restive northern region was killed Monday in a firefight with security forces amid a crackdown in which more than 180 others have been arrested.
Brig. Gen. Asamnew Tsige was killed on the outskirts of Bahir Dar, capital of the northern Amhara region, according to Nigussu Tilahun, a spokesman in the prime minister’s office.
Ethiopian forces had been hunting down Asamnew since he and soldiers loyal to him attacked a meeting of the Amhara government in the regional capital Saturday, killing the governor and his adviser. The region’s attorney general died of his wounds on Monday, according to local media reports.
The attack Saturday was followed hours later by the assassination in Addis Ababa of the chief of Ethiopia’s military and a retired army general by a bodyguard.
The killings were widely seen as an attack on Ethiopia’s new prime minister, Abiy Ahmed, who has pushed through sweeping changes since his election last year.
Asamnew, the renegade general blamed for the violence, had been pardoned by Abiy after being jailed by the previous government and accused of plotting a coup. He had recently used social media posts to incite a rebellion in Amhara, according to reports in Ethiopian media.
The shootout in which Asamnew was killed comes as the government roots out others suspected of supporting the rebellion. Four high-ranking Amhara officials, including the deputy head of security, were taken into custody Monday, according to Abere Adamu, chief of the Amhara police commission. An additional 178 people have been arrested on suspicion of taking part in violence in the region, he said.
An Internet shutdown has been in force across Ethiopia since Saturday’s killings.
Flags in Ethiopia flew at half-staff Monday, which was declared a day of national mourning. Addis Ababa, the nation’s capital, was peaceful as soldiers stood guard in Meskel Square and manned roadblocks.
Abiy, 42, has initiated broad political and economic moves, including the surprise acceptance of a peace agreement with neighboring Eritrea, the opening of major state-owned sectors to private investment and the release of thousands of political prisoners, including opposition figures once sentenced to death.
Although Abiy’s policies are widely popular, some members of the previous regime are unhappy with the changes, and the prime minister has survived a number of threats.
Ethiopia is a key regional ally of the United States in the restive Horn of Africa region.
Tibor Nagy, U.S. assistant secretary of state for Africa, said the latest violence was a “shock, but it could have turned out so much worse.”
“Thankfully, Prime Minister Abiy escaped this attempt because there are many, many more people in Ethiopia who support his reforms than those who are opposed to them,” he told reporters in Pretoria, South Africa.