Kinfe Dagnew, a Brigadier General in the Ethiopian army, was taken into custody near the border with Sudan and Eritrea, said state-run EBC broadcaster.
Addis Ababa – Ethiopia arrested the former head of the military industrial conglomerate managed on Tuesday and flew it by hand to the capital, state media reported, a day after authorities announced an investigation targeting senior members of the security forces.
Kinfe Dagnew, a Brigadier General in the Ethiopian army and former chief executive of METEC, was taken into custody near the border with Sudan and Eritrea, said state-run EBC broadcaster.
State media broadcast footage showing Kinfe surrounded by army rings and then drawing himself in handcuffs arriving by military helicopter in the capital late Tuesday.
A day earlier the attorney general announced the arrest of another METEC executive in the investigation of corruption and the detention of security officials accused of abusing detainees – actions welcomed by prominent rights groups and opposition politicians.
Amnesty International said the arrests announced on Monday "were an important first step to ensuring full accountability for the violations that have claimed the country for decades".
A Western envoy, who asked not to be named, described the crackdown as "a full frontal attack on formation".
Kinfe's arrest was the most prominent since Prime Minister Ably Aimed took office in April to control the security services and deal with what he called economic mismanagement, corruption and human rights violations.
He has pushed for reforms that have transformed decades-old policies and hierarchies at the center of the East African economy – including a move to let private investors get shares in large conglomerates run by the army and other state bodies.
There was no immediate statement from the attorney general about the arrest of Kinfe. The Prime Minister's office refers Reuters to the attorney general.
On Monday, attorney general Berhanu Tsegaye said the investigation had found corruption in METEC (Metal and Engineering Corporation), which made military equipment and was involved in the sector from agriculture to construction. Reuters has not been able to contact METEC for comments – senior PR officials are among those arrested.
The Attorney General said 27 METEC officers had been detained – along with 36 intelligence officers, police and other military officials accused of abusing detainees.
He also accused senior members of the security services of ordering an attack on the prime minister in June.
METEC employees who were arrested and security officials appeared in court on Monday. A judge rejected the suspects and gave the police 14 days to investigate. Nothing is billed.
Opposition politician Berhanu Nega welcomed the development and said most Ethiopians were happy with the arrest.
"People believe it is time for these steps to be taken to overcome the problem of justice in the past but also to show in the future that such crimes cannot be accepted in the future," he told Reuters.
A list of arrest warrants issued by the current attorney general's office named 27 METEC and former executives including the head of the production of military equipment and the head of logistics and supply companies.
One of those arrested was "arrested … while trying to destroy evidence", the document read.
There were no direct comments from the defendants or their lawyers.
Abiy – Ethiopia's first leader of the majority ethnic Oromo group – was chosen by the EPRDF to head it after three years of street protests and strikes piled up pressure on the coalition to reform.
Some analysts say the Abiy reformation has targeted the old EPRDF guards, which were dominated by the Tigrayan ethnic minority group. But others suggested he should get high-level support from senior members of the TPLF, the Tigrayan political party in the coalition.
"This will be a recipe for conflict to fight big fish without approval, or bargaining from the TPLF," said an Ethiopian analyst who declined to be named.