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Twin Blasts Rock Ethiopian Capital, Killing Three


Two bomb blasts in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa have killed three people and injured 18 others. VOA's Peter Heinlein in Addis Ababa reports the attacks targeted Ethiopia's national oil company.

The blasts occurred within an hour of each other late Monday at two gas stations operated by the privately-owned National Oil Company in different parts of the Ethiopian capital. In each case, police say an explosive device was planted near a kerosene dispenser.

Among the dead was a 10-year-old girl.

Police immediately sealed off the areas around the blast sites, but witnesses say both explosions caused considerable damage.

An Information Ministry spokesman would not rule out terrorism, but said no one claimed responsibility and no suspects were identified.

Addis Ababa has been the scene of two other bomb blasts in recent weeks, one outside Ethiopia's Commercial Bank and the other near the entrance to the high court

National Oil Company Chief Executive Officer Tadesse Tilahun says the two stations were back in operation Tuesday. He told VOA he is puzzled that oil installations were targeted.

"It has never happened like that in our stations," Tilahun said. "This is the first time, and I cannot tell because we here as a company are doing what is really good for the society at large, and that is our job, and I do not know anything negative from what we are doing to the public."

The semi-private National Oil Company operates 20 gasoline stations in Addis Ababa and about 80 throughout Ethiopia.

State-run Ethiopian television, in its report on the blasts, noted they came a day after the first phase of nationwide local and parliamentary elections. The reports speculated that the explosions could be the work of disgruntled opposition political factions.

A second phase of the elections will be held next Sunday, with Prime Minister Meles Zenawi's Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front expected to win by a landslide. Opposition parties have alleged massive fraud, and say a ruling party sweep would clear the way for one-party rule in Ethiopia.

Officials of the prime minister's party have rejected the charges, arguing that opposition parties, many of them small regional groups, were ill-equipped and poorly prepared for the nationwide municipal council elections.

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