1. ITV Report

Deadly blast at Ethiopia rally a ‘well-orchestrated attack’

The aftermath of the explosion. Photo: APTN

A deadly explosion has struck a huge rally for Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister shortly after he spoke and was waving to the crowd, leaving one person dead.

At least one person was killed in the attack and 153 people were hurt, 10 critically, according to the country's Health Minister.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed called the grenade blast a “well-orchestrated attack”, but one that failed.

The attack was “cheap and unacceptable,” Mr Abiy said, and added: “Love always wins. Killing others is a defeat. To those who tried to divide us, I want to tell you that you have not succeeded.”

He did not lay blame but said police were investigating.

State media reported that nine police officials have been arrested, including the deputy head of the capital's police commission.

The news comes after witnesses reported a man wearing a police uniform attempted to throw a grenade at the stage where Mr Abiy was sitting, but was held back by the crowd and then restrained by police officers.

A bang was reported to have been heard shortly afterwards.

Mr Abiy told supporters at the rally that change was coming. Credit: AP

Video from the scene in packed Meskel Square in the capital, Addis Ababa, showed bloodstained ground and abandoned shoes while people chanting the Prime Minister's name fled, some clutching their heads in shock and despair.

In a statement, Ethiopia's ruling party blamed the attack on "desperate anti-peace elements" and vowed to continue with the country's reforms.

Tens of thousands attended the rally in support of Mr Abiy. Credit: AP

Changes have shocked many in Africa’s second most populous nation after years of anti-government tensions, states of emergency, thousands of arrests and long internet shutdowns.

Mr Abiy, 42, took office in April and quickly announced the release of tens of thousands of prisoners, the opening of state-owned companies to private investment and the unconditional embrace of a peace deal with rival Eritrea.

Recently websites have been unblocked and opposition figures engaged with.

Many Ethiopians have said they can hardly keep up with the pace of change.

Saturday’s rally in support of the sweeping changes in the country began as a show of exuberance, with supporters wearing clothes displaying Mr Abiy’s image and carrying signs saying “One Love, One Ethiopia”.

The explosion happened in the packed Meskel Square in the capital, Addis Ababa. Credit: AP

Prior to the blast at the rally, Mr Abiy told the tens of thousands of supporters that change was coming and there was no turning back.

“For the past 100 years hate has done a great deal of damage to us,” he said, stressing the need for even more reforms.

After the explosion the state broadcaster quickly cut away from coverage of the rally.