By ELIAS MESERET
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) – At least 11 students have been killed in violent clashes with Ethiopian police in a region that has long been the scene of a secessionist movement, according to the government.
Violence has erupted in a number of university campuses across Oromia state as ethnic Oromo students protest a plan by the central government to expand the capital, Addis Ababa, into parts of Oromia, the government said in a statement late Thursday.
Student protests, which started on April 28, are happening in at least four university campuses in Oromia. The violence appears to be spreading from the campuses into nearby towns, causing serious damage to property. Protesters set fire to a bank, a gas station and some government buildings, according to police.
Oromo, the largest state in Ethiopia, has long had a difficult relationship with the central government in Addis Ababa. A movement has been growing there for independence from Ethiopia and a secessionist group, the Oromo Liberation Front, has been outlawed by the government.
Regional police said in a statement that the students’ protest may have been hijacked by anti-government activists in the region. At least one of the 11 dead students was killed in a bomb blast that also wounded several others, police said in a statement.
“We have established that the violence was not (on) the students’ agenda. As usual, there were some anti-democratic forces behind,” the statement said.
It warned the students about becoming a tool for “outside forces,” but did not name those forces.