Gunshots have been reported at a jail, on the outskirts of Ethiopia’s capital Addis Ababa, where anti-government protesters are held.
The Qilinti jail also caught fire, with casualties numbering anywhere between one and 20 according to conflicting reports.
Fortune, a privately-owned Ethiopian newspaper, claimed that there had been 20 casualties, but did not specify whether it meant dead or wounded.
It also carried a photograph of a huge plume of smoke billowing over a row of buildings and said that that three firefighters had been taken to hospital with breathing difficulties after the fire had been brought under control on Saturday evening (3 September).
Fana Broadcasting Corporate, a pro-government radio station reported that one person had been killed, and six injured.
The jail is used to imprison members of the Oromo ethnic group. Members of the Oromo community have been holding anti-government demonstrations against the government since November 2015, demanding more political and economic freedoms. Demonstrations started among the Oromo, Ethiopia’s biggest ethnic group, and spread to the Amhara, the second largest.
Fortune, citing sources, reported that the fire had been deliberately started as part of an escape attempt and said that police had now taken control of the facility from prison officers.
According to Human Rights Watch, Ethiopian security forces have killed more than 400 people since the protests began and found that live ammunition has been routinely used for crowd control purposes.
“Ethiopian security forces have fired on and killed hundreds of students, farmers, and other peaceful protesters with blatant disregard for human life,” said Leslie Lefkow, deputy Africa director at Human Rights Watch.
“The government should immediately free those wrongfully detained, support a credible, independent investigation, and hold security force members accountable for abuses.”