Four people were killed in southeastern Ethiopia when Muslim protesters attacked a police station following the arrest of a preacher, said State Minister of Communications Shimeles Kemal.
The deaths occurred on April 27 in Asasa, in the Arsi Zone of Oromia region, after a crowd tried to free the imam, Shimeles said in a phone interview today from Addis Ababa, the capital. Ten policemen were injured, the police station and post office burned down and 24 people arrested, he said.
“A certain imam, an Islamic fundamentalist, had been trying to instigate jihad,” said Shimeles. “When police arrested him, his supporters tried to get him released forcefully.”
Incidents of religious strife in Ethiopia are rare, though there have been fatal sectarian clashes in the southwest of the country in recent years. Ethiopia is Africa’s second-most populous nation, after Nigeria. Its people are 44 percent Ethiopian Orthodox Christian, 34 percent Muslim and 19 percent Protestant, according to the CIA World Factbook.
An al-Qaeda cell containing a “few Salafist extremists” was captured in Arsi, Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told lawmakers on April 17, without providing further details, according to the Foreign Ministry.