Fire kills 23 at Ethiopian prison thought to hold arrested protesters

Government officials are investigating what they say was a fire intentionally set to assist in an escape from the Qilinto prison.

By Stephen Feller

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, Sept. 5 (UPI) -- At least 23 people died Monday at a prison in Ethiopia, most from suffocation during a stampede when a blaze broke out, the government said.

A fire broke out at the Qilinto prison in Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, Monday morning in what some government officials say was an attempted escape. The fire has been put out and order restored to the facility.


Qilinto is the prison government officials in Ethiopia have been sending protesters in recent weeks during anti-government demonstrations. The prison is generally used to hold people as they await trial, however is also known for higher profile detainments such as journalists and political activists.

The Ethiopian government reported the fire at Qilinto broke out at 8:30 am, damaging two buildings and mattresses, blankets and recreational facilities used by inmates there.

The fire was thought to have broken out in a kitchen as part of an escape attempt. Although 21 inmates were killed in a stampede to escape the burning facility, the government also said two inmates were killed while trying to escape. There were reports of gunshots being heard in the area.


Six others, including three firefighters, were also injured during the fire and were being treated.

Anti-government violence has rocked Ethiopia since at least November, with 97 people being killed at one protest in early August -- just one of several bloody gatherings leaders there call illegal protests aimed at destabilizing the government that "go against our country's constitution."

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