Death toll in Ethiopian protests after killing of singer rises to 166

The number of people killed in weeklong protests in Ethiopia following the slaying of a popular singer and activist has risen to 166, according to a regional deputy police commissioner.

Hachalu Hundessa considered a voice for country's largest ethnic group, the Oromo

Members of the Oromo Ethiopian community in Lebanon take part in a demonstration to protest the death of musician and activist Hachalu Hundessa in the capital Beirut on Sunday. Hundessa was shot and killed in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa on June 29. He had provided the soundtrack for the Oromo-led protest movement that helped bring down Ethiopia's government in 2018. (Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images)

Ethiopian police were patrolling the country's troubled Oromia region and the capital, Addis Ababa, on Sunday, following a week of unrest in which 166 people were killed and more than 2,000 arrested after a popular singer was shot dead.

In Oromia, 145 civilians and 11 members of security forces were killed, Girma Gelam, deputy police commissioner in the region, told the state-affiliated Fana Broadcasting Corporate. Another 10 people were killed in the capital, eight of them civilians.

Last Wednesday, the military was deployed in Addis Ababa after 50 people were killed over two days of unrest.

The Internet was cut last week to try to dampen the protests and made it difficult for rights monitors to track the scores of killings.

More than 2,280 people have been arrested in Oromia and Addis Ababa, police said. The arrests included that of a well-known Oromo activist, Jawar Mohammed, and more than 30 supporters. It is not clear what charges they might face.

The Oromo make up Ethiopia's largest ethnic group but had never held the country's top political post until Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed came to power in 2018.

The arrest of opposition figures "could make a volatile situation even worse," Human Rights Watch has said.

The unrest erupted after popular singer Hachalu Hundessa was killed on June 29. He had been a prominent voice in anti-government protests that led to Abiy coming to power. The singer was buried last Thursday in a ceremony shown on national television.

A woman reacts next to the coffin of Ethiopian musician Hachalu Hundessa during his funeral in Ambo, Ethiopia, on July 2 in this still image taken from video. His killing tapped into grievances fuelled by decades of government repression and what the Oromo describe as their historic exclusion from political power. (Oromia Broadcasting Network (OBN) via Reuters)

The new disturbances amount to the prime minister's greatest domestic test since he took office, analysts say. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for dramatic reforms, including welcoming home once-banned exile groups. However, Abiy's steps to open political space have been used by some Ethiopians to air ethnic and other grievances. At times, it has led to deadly violence, and human rights groups have accused security forces of abuses.

Speaking about the week of unrest, Abiy said he had recently extended an offer of peace to dissidents, but they have "taken up arms" in revolt against the government in a week.

Those who participate "in the destruction of the nation cannot be considered guardians of the nation," Abiy said on Friday.