Following the Derg's assumption of power over Ethiopia in 1974, Asrat, who was a Major at the time, became the chairman of the Derg's information and public affairs committee. He was an avowed Marxist-Leninist, once stating, "We are doing what Lenin did. You cannot build socialism without Red Terror."
A member of the faction opposed to Lieutenant Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam, at a February 1977 meeting between Mengistu and his opponents, who included not only Asrat but chairman General Tafari Benti and a number of leading members of the Derg, gunfire erupted leaving both Asrat and General Tafari, as well as six other leaders of the Derg dead. Mengistu afterwards broadcast on Radio Ethiopia that Asrat and his dead compatriots had attempted a "fascist coup d'etat in the capital identical to what had taken place in Chile", and labeling them "fifth columnists" of the Ethiopian Democratic Union and Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Party rebel groups.
- Marina and David Ottaway, Ethiopia: Empire in Revolution (New York: Africana, 1978), p. 206 n. 10
- As quoted by Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Mitrokhin Archive II: The KGB and the World, Penguin, 2006, pp. 467-8.
- Ottaway, Empire in Revolution, pp. 142f
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