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Wednesday, 18 April, 2001, 23:52 GMT 00:52 UK
Anarchy descends on Addis Ababa
Students in church compound
Students sought refuge in churches and mosques
By Nita Bhalla in Addis Ababa

Thousands of young demonstrators clashed with police on Wednesday in a second day of rioting in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa.

Addis Ababa looked like a city under siege

There are reports that hospitals have been inundated with hundreds of casualties and some are feared dead.

The riots are linked to university student protests against police brutality and calls for political and academic freedom.

Addis Ababa looked like a city under siege as mobs of youths clashed violently with police, creating anarchy all over the capital.

Shops were looted in the Piassa and Mercato areas, cars smashed to pieces and buses set alight.

Smashed-up car
The clashes led to anarchy all over the city
Throughout Wednesday, gun shots and the sirens of ambulances and police cars could be heard in the distance.

Many offices, shops, cafes and bars been closed and the streets were deserted except for hundreds of police.

Trucks carrying riot police moved from one area to another in an attempt to quash any uprising.

Youths join protest

Most of those involved in the violence are not students, but high school pupils and young unemployed men and boys, who say they support the university students' protest for their academic rights.

Policemen crossing over a main road
Police have responded heavy-handedly
But they turned a largely peaceful protest into anarchy.

The police responded heavy-handedly, beating and shooting people. This has exacerbated the situation further.

The number of casualties has not yet been confirmed but sources at the local Tukrambessa hospital say about 100 people have been brought in so far with injuries.

There are also unconfirmed reports that up to six people have died.

Forced return

The 10,000 students of Addis Ababa University were given a deadline by the government to either end their nine-day boycott of classes or face expulsion.

students in church compound
'Unity is strength' is the students' slogan
The students refused, seeking refuge in churches and mosques in the area.

But they were forced out of one church and are being taken back the university campus.

The students say they cannot return to their homes as their slogan for the last nine days has been "Unity is strength".

They say if they stay together they are a credible force to be reckoned with. But if they disperse, they will lose the momentum of their protest.

Call for restraint

The students say they are happy with the support the local community is giving them, but on Wednesday evening they called on people to exercise restraint as the situation deteriorates.

Universities and colleges throughout the country have been coming out in support of the students' demands, which include the removal of campus police, who they consider to be intimidating, and the resignation of the two vice-presidents of the university who they claim are affiliated with the government.

There was an uneasy calm as night fell over the city. Many are now urging the government to seek a compromise with the students and end this chaos before more blood is spilt.

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See also:

21 Mar 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Ethiopia
17 Apr 01 | Africa
'Brutal' attack by Addis police
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