ADDIS ABABA — The chief of staff of the Ethiopian Army and at least two other senior officials have been killed during a coup attempt by an army general in the northern state of Amhara, state television said on Sunday.
Amhara’s state president, Ambachew Mekonnen, and his adviser, Gize Abera, were also killed, according to state media, which said the coup attempt had been orchestrated by the region’s head of security, Gen. Asamnew Tsige.
“He was shot by people who are close to him,” Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed said in a televised address on Saturday of Mr. Ambachew.
Regional government officials had been in a meeting while the coup attempt was underway to discuss how to rein in the open recruitment of ethnic militias by Asamnew, officials said.
It was unclear where the army chief, Gen. Seare Mekonnen, had been killed — some reports said in the capital, Addis Ababa.
The United States Embassy said on Saturday that it was aware of reports of gunfire in Addis Ababa, and some residents said they had heard about six shots fired in a suburb near Bole International Airport around 9:30 p.m. local time on Saturday.
Mr. Abiy has released political prisoners, removed bans on political parties, prosecuted officials accused of gross human rights abuses, and reestablished relations with neighboring Eritrea. But his government has been battling growing violence.
The killings come as the country gears up for a national parliamentary election next year. Several opposition groups have called for the polls to be held on time despite the unrest and displacement.
Ethiopians in many parts of the country reported a disruption in internet service beginning late Saturday, although the government has not stated whether it had again cut it off. The authorities have cut off the internet several times in the past for security and other reasons.
Residents in Amhara’s capital, Bahir Dar, said late Saturday that there was gunfire in some neighborhoods and some roads had been closed off.
The government faces growing pressure from regional strongmen, including in Amhara, a flash point in growing ethnic violence in Ethiopia.
A week earlier, General Asamnew had openly advised the Amhara people, one of Ethiopia’s larger ethnic groups, to arm themselves, in a video spread on Facebook.