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Oromia festival disrupted as Ethiopian police fire teargas to disperse protesters


The annual Irreecha thanksgiving festival of the Oromia people in central Ethiopia was disrupted on Sunday after police fired teargas to disperse protesters in Bishoftu.

Among the thousands of festival participants, a number of them marched chanting anti-government slogans and their arms crossed above their heads which solicited the police reaction.

Colorful #irrecha being celebrated at Hora: same time, Qeerroo showing Resistance sign #OromoProtests #Ethiopia pic.twitter.com/itz9T2g49E

— Ethiopian Press (abenezer_a) October 2, 2016

Some witnesses told Reuters that the police also fired shots into the air causing a stampede which resulted in several casualties.

Gov't forces opened fire bullets at people celebrating #Irrecha2016 killing & injuring many. #Oromo #Ethiopia BBCAfrica hrw pic.twitter.com/DwUWLcQAKQ

— Milkiisaa Cimdeessaa (@roobsan) October 2, 2016

The government has not yet commented on the incident as at Sunday morning and the number of casualties cannot be readily verified.

#IrreechaMassacre: Acc Jawar_Mohammed in addition to 120 bodies at Bishoftu hospital. 175 bodies transported to AA. pic.twitter.com/s6b3uqVEqR

— Ethiopian Press (abenezer_a) October 2, 2016

Witnesses told Africanews that a helicopter hovered around the festival grounds close to the Lake Harsadi before it dropped teargas on the people while the police on the ground fired the shots.

The Oromia region lies south of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa and is the center of the Oromia protests last year which Human Rights Watch reported that over 400 protesters were killed.

The government disputed the figures yet hundreds remained in custody without charges after thousands of students, social media activists, and opposition party leaders and supporters were arrested.

The anti-government protests which continued in other regions including the neighbouring Amhara were held to demand fair distribution of wealth to Oromia and Amhara, which are the poorest in the country.

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