ADDIS ABABA – Ethiopian police, using tear gas, briefly clashed with young Muslims during prayers to end Ramadan in Addis Ababa on Monday.
The incident happened outside the international stadium in the heart of the capital, where prayers were scheduled to celebrate the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the Muslim holy month.
As the stadium was full, some believers were unable to enter and started praying outside in Meskel Square.
A member of the High Council for Islamic Affairs in Addis Ababa told AFP that the cause of the confrontation was unclear.
A police officer fired tear gas into the crowd, but “it was not intentional”, the officer said, citing local volunteers.
“The policeman was evacuated by other policemen, but people were shocked and some started chanting…the situation got out of control.”
Addis police released a statement saying “a riot” was caused by “a few people” and resulted in property damage, but order has now been restored.
“Police are calling on the community to remain calm,” he said, adding that they would later brief the public on the cause of the riots.
According to eyewitnesses, some protesters threw stones at the police and shouted “Justice for Gondar” and “Don’t burn our mosques, don’t kill our people”.
At least 20 people were killed last month in Gondar, a city in the northwest Amhara region, when Muslims were attacked by heavily armed “Christian extremists”, according to an Islamic group.
Stone-throwing protesters also smashed the windows of a national museum in Meskel Square before calm was restored.