Ethiopia’s government has expelled two Arabs who flew in from the Middle East after the pair went to a mosque and tried to incite violence, an official said Saturday.
The two men visited Addis Ababa’s Grand Anwar Mosque on Friday and disseminated materials and made inflammatory statements, said Shimeles Kemal, state minister of communications.
“The Ethiopian government found them to be persona non grata and they were immediately deported,” he said. The men’s nationalities were not made public.
The deportations come one week after security forces arrested a Muslim religious leader in the Oromia region accused of radical statements. A group of Muslims tried to free the imam and clashed with police. Four of the demonstrators were killed and 10 police were wounded, Shimeles said.
“A number of suspects are in police custody. The elders in the community there have helped contain the situation and it remains peaceful since the incident,” Shimeles added.
The country’s Federal Ministry on Thursday issued a statement accusing the unnamed group of trying to declare jihad against the government and incite violence in a number of mosques across the country. The statement said a dozen suspects were recruited by the group from the country’s Oromia, Tigray and Amhara regions to carry out illegal activities are now in police custody.
Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on April 17 told the country’s parliament that a few Salafis formed clandestine al-Qaida cells in the Arsi and Bale zones of the country’s southeastern region and are trying “to erode the age-old tradition of tolerance between traditional Sufi Muslims and Christians in Ethiopia.”
Ethiopia borders Somalia, where al-Shabab militants have pledged allegiance to al-Qaida.
More than half of Ethiopians are Christian. About a third are Muslim.