At least 52 people died in Ethiopia Sunday when a panic broke out after clashes with police during a religious festival, local officials said.
The clashes occurred when a religious ceremony in Bishoftu, about 45 kilometres south-east of Addis Ababa, turned violent. Officials in Bishoftu said at least 52 people died; the opposition spoke of hundreds of dead.
First estimates at the scene place the number of dead between 50 and 300, a dpa employee reported from the demonstration. At least 2 million people were expected to take part in the festivities surrounding Irreechaa, which to people in the Oromo region is the equivalent of thanksgiving.
Eyewitnesses reported that during the ceremony, participants threwstones at security forces and shouted slogans against the government. Police used tear gas against the crowd and fired shots into the air.
When people attempted to flee, many fell into gutters or jumped into a nearby river and drowned. Numerous injured people were transported to hospitals in the area.