ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, May 2 (UPI) -- Students in Ethiopia's Oromia Regional State have been engaging in deadly clashes with security forces since April 25 over reported plans to expand the capital, Addis Ababa.
On Thursday, the government's Communications Affairs Office released a statement regarding the unrest, which it attributed to "baseless rumors which discredit the value and aim of the integrated development master plan designed to integrate Addis Ababa with the Oromia Special Zone surrounding the city through development."
The plan is up for public discussion, the government said.
"However, before the full-scale holding of the public discussions with stakeholders in all the regional states, loss of lives and property have occurred in some universities where students confused by deliberate misleading rumors and gossips created havoc."
According to the government's report, a total of nine students have died because of the "disturbances" caused by "anti-peace forces."
That statistic was challenged by one Ambo resident who told the BBC that 47 people have been killed since the unrest began a week earlier.
"I saw more than 20 bodies on the streets," the unidentified witness said. "I am hiding in my house because I am scared." Four students were killed Monday and 43 students on Tuesday following a large demonstration. Streets, she said, are now deserted with local businesses shuttered, classes canceled at Ambo University -- where protests began -- and students not allowed to leave.