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Christians, too, have struggled for religious freedom under Mr. Zenawi’s regime, which appointed its own choice for patriarch of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church.

Muslims also accuse the government of exaggerating the threat of Islamic extremism to receive more Western financial and logistical support to combat terrorism in the region.

Ethiopia has been a key Western ally in diminishing the al Qaeda-linked al-Shabab militant group in neighboring Somalia. Mr. Zenawi was one of just four African leaders invited to the Group of Eight meeting in May at Camp David in Maryland.