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Ethiopians protest over IS killings

Published 22/04/2015

Thousands of people protest the killing of many Ethiopian Christians in Libya by Islamic State. (AP)
Thousands of people protest the killing of many Ethiopian Christians in Libya by Islamic State. (AP)
Protesters hold a banner showing victims Eyasu Yikunoamlak, left, and Balcha Belete, right. (AP)

More than 100,000 Ethiopians have protested over the killing of Ethiopian Christians in Libya and their own government's failure to raise living standards for the poor.

The government-supported march at Addis Ababa's Meskel Square turned violent as stone-throwing protesters clashed with the police, who arrested at least 100 people.

Ethiopians were seen being beheaded or shot in a video released on Sunday by the extremist group Islamic State. The victims are widely believed to have been captured in Libya while trying to reach Europe.

Ahaza Kassaye, the mother of one of the victims identified as Eyasu Yikunoamlak, told The Associated Press during that she was overwhelmed by the massive turnout.

"I'm happy now. I'm very happy. I was just mourning the death of my son with family members and my neighbours. I never expected this to happen," she said.

Ahaza, who had to seek shelter in a cafe when the protest turned violent, said she hoped the government would react to the killings by closing all illegal border crossings and arresting suspected human traffickers.

Some young people in Addis Ababa said they they would still attempt the perilous journey to Europe, often via Sudan and then Libya, if they had enough money to cover the smugglers' fees.

Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn said that, while poverty was the root cause of the migrations, smugglers were to blame for encouraging poor people to pursue what he called "the death journey".

Politicians have been debating a possible response to the Islamic State killings, but it remains unclear if military action is an option. The government has announced three days of nation-wide mourning over the killings.

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