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The suspected ringleader of Saturday’s failed coup attempt in Ethiopia’s Amhara region is on the run, a senior security official has told the BBC.

Six people, including the bodyguard who killed the army chief, are now known to have died in the unrest.

Flags are flying at half-mast after the federal government declared a day of mourning to mark the deaths.

Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has urged Ethiopians to unite against “evil” forces set on dividing the country.

Both the army chief Gen Seare Mekonnen and Amhara governor Ambachew Mekonnen, who was also killed, were seen as close allies of the prime minister.

A heavy contingent of pro-government forces has been deployed in Amhara’s capital, Bahir Dar, and the federal capital, Addis Ababa.

The internet has been shut across the country, days after services resumed following an unexplained blackout of more than a week.

The US state department has warned its staff in Addis Ababa to stay inside.

Ethnic violence has hit Amhara and other parts of Ethiopia in recent years.

Since his election last year, Mr Abiy has transformed Ethiopia.

He has moved to end political repression by releasing political prisoners, removed bans on opposition political parties, overseen the prosecution of officials accused of human rights abuses and also restored diplomatic relations with Ethiopia’s long-time enemy, Eritrea.

Mr Abiy survived a grenade attack at a rally a year ago on Sunday, which killed two people and left more than 100 injured.

Africa’s oldest independent country, Ethiopia is also the continent’s second most populous after Nigeria, with 102.5 million inhabitants from more than 80 different ethnic groups.

A transfer hub for long-haul air travel, it has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world, but a vast number of young Ethiopians are without work.

These are tumultuous times for Ethiopia and Prime Minister Abiy, who is already facing increased ethnic tensions.

Chief of staff Seare Mekonnen had only served as head of the military for a year having being appointed by Mr Abiy, who made sweeping changes in the security apparatus when he took office last April.

It is clear there is still significant opposition within the military opposed to the PM’s style of leadership.

The killing of Amhara’s governor is also a big blow for Mr Abiy, who is credited with installing Ambachew Mekonnen in office.

He was a key ally in Amhara, which is itself facing security problems and clamour from some groups for greater autonomy from the central government.

The first general election since Mr Abiy came to power is supposed to be held next year, but it is very hard to see how this will go ahead in a country that is highly polarised. The atmosphere is just too toxic.

Another issue the prime minister is having to grapple with is unrest within the military.

In October, he said hundreds of soldiers who marched to his office to demand a pay rise had wanted to kill him.

Mr Abiy has also made enemies for leading a massive crackdown on alleged corruption and human rights abuses in the military, and the intelligence agencies.

More than 60 intelligence and military officials were arrested last year.

They included the former deputy head of the national security agency and the former head of the massive military-run conglomerate, Metals and Engineering Company (Metec).

Source: BBC News

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