Ethiopian military chief shot dead by own bodyguard in 'failed coup'

Ethiopia’s prime minister Abiy Ahmed announces the failed coup Credit: ETV via AP

The head of Ethiopia’s military has been shot dead at home by his own bodyguard in what the country's government is describing as a failed coup.

General Seare Mekonnen was killed at his residence in Addis Ababa, while a retired general visiting the army chief was also killed in the same attack late on Saturday.

Earlier, prime minister Abiy Ahmed said his government had foiled a coup attempt in the Amhara region.

Mr Abiy said the coup was led by a high-ranking military official and others within the country’s military.

He said some people had been killed and others wounded in the operation.

The US Embassy reported gunfire on Saturday in Addis Ababa and urged people to be careful.

In Bahir Dar, capital of Amhara, residents said they could still hear gunshots late on Saturday. Ethiopia’s internet appeared to be shut down on Sunday.

The attempted coup in Amhara is the latest challenged to Mr Abiy, who was elected last year as a reform-minded young leader.

Addis Ababa at night, the capital of Ethiopia. Credit: Gift Habeshaw/Unsplash

Mr Abiy has captured the imagination of many with his political and economic reforms, including the surprise acceptance of a peace agreement with bitter rival Eritrea, the opening of major state-owned sectors to private investment and the release of thousands of prisoners including opposition figures once sentenced to death.

Along the way he has faced some challenges. In June 2018, after only months in office, an attempt to hurl a grenade at Mr Abiy caused a deadly explosion at a massive rally in support of the sweeping changes in Ethiopia. Nine police officials were arrested over that incident, state media reported.

In October rebellious Ethiopian soldiers protested over pay, causing a security incident in the capital. Ethiopia’s army is one of the largest in Africa.

The country is a key regional security ally for the United States and others in the restive Horn of Africa region.