Fire kills 23 at Ethiopean prison thought to hold arrested protesters

Fire kills 23 at Ethiopean prison thought to hold arrested protesters.  ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia, – At least 23 people were killed today at a prison in Ethiopia, most from suffocation during a stampede when the blaze broke out, according to reports.

A fire at Qilinto prison on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, the capital of Ethiopia, pictured, killed 23 this morning, according to government reports that refer to the blaze as an attempted escape by inmates. Photo by Dereje/Shutterstock

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, though 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 protests. 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 — which lines up with reports of gunshots being heard in the area.

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

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

By Stephen Feller