Ethiopia probes reports of 17 killed during jailbreak

Authorities are investigating reports that at least 17 people were killed when inmates broke out of a military prison in eastern Ethiopia, a police official said on Thursday.

About 30 prisoners were believed to have tried to escape from a prison in Kebre Dehar town. There were reports that between 17 and 18 of them were killed, said Tewodros Wolde, head of the police commissioner’s office in Jijiga, capital of Ethiopia’s eastern Somali region.

The incident occurred on Tuesday, but the circumstances are still unclear because of poor communication with the remote town, 1 200km east of the capital, Addis Ababa, he said.

A regional separatist group, the Ogaden National Liberation Front, said in a statement that officers opened fire on prisoners who were protesting poor conditions. The statement said the Ethiopian army then fired shots indiscriminately in the town.

“More than 30 people are reported dead from the civilians and the prisoners,” according to the statement.

The police official dismissed the claims.

Government officials in Addis Ababa were unavailable for comment despite repeated attempts to contact them.

The Ogaden National Liberation Front—which has fought to make the region an independent state for the Somali ethnic majority there—claims to represent ethnic Somalis in Ethiopia, and makes occasional hit-and-run attacks against government troops in Ogaden.
- Sapa-AP