An attack by Jihadists on a police station resulted in the death of four people while ten policemen were injured last Friday.
The incident took place in Asasa towm, located in southern Ethiopia.
The attack was intended to free a preacher (imam) detained by the police.
William Davison quoted State Minister of Communications Shimeles Kemal as saying that:
“A certain imam, an Islamic fundamentalist, had been trying to instigate jihad….When police arrested him, his supporters tried to get him released forcefully.”
The police station and post office burned down and 24 people arrested.
Asasa is a small town of 20,000 residents. It is located in western Arsi zone, Oromia region, about 220 km south of Ethiopia’s capital city, Addis Ababa.
It is to be recalled that Ethiopian police detained eight members of al-Qaeda last February after they were allegedly found “organizing, providing training and educating recruits with the assistance from the East Africa al-Qaeda group”. The Anti-terrism taskforce indicated at the time that “the terrorist cell in Ethiopia have strong links with the Somali terror group, Al-shabab and al-queda terrorist cells in Kenya, Sudan, Philippines, Saudi Arabaia and South Africa”.
The Ethiopian prime minster underscored the threat of extremists belonging to the Salafi Muslim sect in his appearance at the parliament in mid-April. A recap of the premier’s speech by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs reads:
[The Prime Minister] noted that there were a few Salafi members who were engaged in subversive acts aimed at establishing an Islamist state just as there were a few Christians calling for a one religion-one nation motto. A few Salafis had even formed clandestine Al Qaeda cells in Arsi and Bale. Reiterating the importance of maintaining the tradition of tolerance the Premier underscored the importance of nipping any such terrorist activities at the outset. Such views were unconstitutional as there was no state religion in Ethiopia nor was it a religious state. So the government has confined itself to teaching the constitution and punishing illegal acts and ensuring the freedom of religion. He stressed the government has no preference between traditional Sufi views, or Salafi doctrines or those of any other sect. This is something to be left to the public. Not all Salafi are Al Qaeda and as long as they respect the constitution they can exercise their freedom of religion as can any other sect in Ethiopia. However, he called on the public to fight any extremists working to obstruct constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression.
According to the 2007 Census, Ethiopia has about 74 million population, of which 33.9% are Muslims while 43.5% and 18.6% belong to Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity and Protestant(evangelical) denominations, respectively.
About 99% of Ethiopian Muslims belong to the Suni sect, according to a recent estimate by the US-based PEW institute.
Islam was introduced to Ethiopia during the first Hijra – that is, when Prophet Mohammed sent his relatives and followers to take refuge in Ethiopia so as to escape from the then religious persecution against Muslims in Saudi Arabia.
In more than a millennia, Ethiopian Muslims developed various cultural and aesthetic values which now is under fire from from adherents of Salafi and Wahabia sects.
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