Thousands of people gathered for the annual Irreecha festival of thanksgiving in the town of Bishoftu, about 40 km south of the capital Addis Ababa.

By Aaron Maasho (Reuters) |

Police in Ethiopia’s Oromia region fired teargas and warning shots on Sunday to disperse anti-government protesters at a religious festival, triggering a stampede that caused several casualties, witnesses said.

Sporadic protests have erupted in Oromia in the last two years, initially sparked by a land row and increasingly turning more broadly against the government. Since late 2015, scores of protesters have been killed in clashes with police.

Thousands of people gathered for the annual Irreecha festival of thanksgiving in the town of Bishoftu, about 40 km (25 miles) south of the capital Addis Ababa.

Crowds chanted “we need freedom” and “we need justice”, preventing community elders, deemed close to the government, from delivering their speeches at the festival.

Some protesters waved the red, green and yellow flag of the Oromo Liberation Front (OLF), a rebel group branded a “terrorist” organization by the government, witnesses said.

When police fired teargas and guns into the air, crowds fled and created a stampede, some of them falling into a deep ditch nearby in the rush of people. Witnesses said they saw several casualties.

It was not immediately clear if they were dead.

Continue reading this story on Reuters
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