BISHOFTU (Web Desk) – Scores of people have been reportedly killed in Ethiopia in a stampede after police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse an anti-government protest that grew out of a religious festival.

There were conflicting death toll reports following Sunday’s stampede in Bishoftu, a town 40km southeast of the capital Addis Ababa.

Opposition groups said more than 100 people had been killed in the chaos after thousands of people gathered at a sacred lake in the town of Bishoftu.

An AFP news agency photographer at the scene said he saw 15-20 unmoving bodies, some of whom were clearly dead.

An Associated Press news agency report said “several dozens” have died.

The government said only that there had been “loss of lives” at the Irreecha (thanksgiving) ceremony, in which the Oromo community marks the end of the rainy season.

“The annual Irreecha festival has been disrupted due to a violence created by some groups… Loss of lives has occurred due to a stampede,” said a government statement published by state media.