July 4, 2009
Ethiopian Christians shot dead in police ambush
by David Masters
Two Christians have been shot dead in an ambush attack by the Ethiopian police after a dispute over a religious site.
The Christians were helping to build a church on a site in Dessie, north-east Ethiopia.
Muslims in the town, who had previously laid claim to the site, had given their blessing for construction work on St Arsema Church to continue.
However, violence broke out when Christian construction workers returned to the site to continue building, only to be ambushed by the Ethiopian police.
Two were killed and at least six others were injured in the police attack
A government spokesperson claimed the Christian construction workers attacked the police.
Information Minister Bereket Simon – nicknamed the ‘disinformation minister’ by the Ethiopian media – said Christians had “stormed the place” and had attempted to continue building the church “unlawfully”.
“Unfortunately three lives have been claimed,” Simon said.
“Two of them were killed by bullets, one of them fell off a cliff.”
Dessie is 155 miles north-east of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Its population is around two-thirds Christian and one-third Muslim.
Media reports from Ethiopia claim the two groups have lived harmoniously and intermarried ‘for generations’, but are now being divided by religious violence deliberately sparked by Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
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