At least 16 people have been killed in violence in Ethiopia this week that began with protests against Prime Minister and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Abiy Ahmed, an Amnesty International researcher said Friday.
"Up to now we have confirmed 16 people dead, but the number must be more than that because new reports are emerging which we have not confirmed," Fisseha Tekle told AFP.
He said the violence had included instances of security forces opening fire on protesters but was increasingly taking the form of ethnic and religious clashes.
"Some people have lost their lives with sticks, with machetes, some houses have been burned. People have been using even bullets and light arms to kill each other, to fight each other," he said.
"I don't have the latest on what happened during the night but there was no sign of decrease."
The violence erupted in Addis Ababa, the capital, and in much of Ethiopia's Oromia region after a high-profile activist accused security forces of trying to orchestrate an attack against him.
ALLIES TURNED FOES
The activist, Jawar Mohammed, is a former Abiy ally and member of the prime minister's Oromo ethnic group -- the country's largest -- who has recently become critical of some of Abiy's policies.
The unrest highlights divisions within the ethnic Oromo support base that swept Abiy to power last year -- divisions that could undermine his position ahead of elections planned for May 2020.
At a press conference Thursday, Jawar called for calm while accusing the authorities of stoking instability.