Security forces in Somalia's capital fired on hundreds of people protesting the delay of the country s election on Friday as at least one explosion was reported at the international airport and armored personnel carriers blocked major streets.
The chaos occurred hours after Somalia’s government and opposition leaders said gunfire erupted overnight near the presidential palace There was no immediate word of deaths.
President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is under pressure as the Feb. 8 election date came and went without resolution of issues related to how the vote is conducted in the Horn of Africa nation.
Information Minister Osman Dubbe said “armed militia” attacked a military post in Mogadishu overnight but was repulsed. But former Somali president Sharif Sheikh Ahmed asserted that the government had raided the hotel near the presidential palace where he and another former president, Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, were staying ahead of the protest.
The fresh gunfire began shortly after a former prime minister, Hassan Ali Khaire, began leading the protest march. Khaire in a statement asserted that shells fired against the protesters landed inside the airport grounds.
As protesters scattered, some angry Somalis warned the president that retaliatory violence could occur.
“If this is what (the president) wants, he will get more of it because this is what we know best,” said one demonstrator, Mohamed Abdi Halane, a militia leader for one of Somalia's powerful clans.
One clan leader, Mohamed Ali Had, said that “trying to suppress our views was what forced us to oust late dictator Siad Barre, which led to the destruction of the country” three decades ago.
The United Nations and others have urged Somali political leaders to solve their differences quickly. The U.N. on Friday said the new clashes “underscore the urgent need.” The U.S. Embassy said that “we urge an end to all violence.”
“This attack is yet another example of the government’s desperate attempts to suppress the voice of the people who oppose (the) federal government’s failure to hold national elections,” one presidential candidate, Abdinasir Abdille Mohamed, tweeted.