Somalia: Armed clashes as opposition presidential candidates stage rally

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Gunfire and mortar fire rocked the Somali capital of Mogadishu on Friday amid a government lockdown, as opposition presidential candidates staged a rally to force President Mohamed Farmaajo to call for elections, Anadolu Agency reported.

Farmaajo, whose term ended on 8 February and is seeking another four-year term, has been unable to reach an agreement with five federal member states on the electoral process.

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Anadolu Agency reported that several people were killed and injured in the firefight between the government forces and security guards of opposition leaders near the presidential palace.

The government forces also dispersed protesters led by opposition presidential candidates – including former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Khaire.

Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble condemned the clashes and warned that his government would not tolerate armed protests that aim to disrupt his government’s economic development.

READ: African Union chief concerned over clashes in Mogadishu

“I am not a candidate in the upcoming polls, but it is my duty to ensure timely, free and fair elections take place,” Roble expressed in a statement issued in Mogadishu.

“I am very sorry for what happened last night and this morning (Thursday night and Friday morning) in Mogadishu. We tried our best to avoid it,” he added.

Meanwhile, the United Nations (UN) mission in Somalia stated that it was “deeply concerned” by the clashes in the capital city.

“The @UN in #Somalia notes that the clashes in #Mogadishu underscore the urgent need for Federal Government and Federal Member State leaders to come together to reach a political agreement on the implementation of the 17 September electoral model,” the UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNSOM) posted on Twitter.

Anadolu Agency reported immigration officials explaining that a suspected mortar shell fired during the clashes landed at Aden Adde International Airport.

Local media revealed that a hotel inside the airport was destroyed, and at least three people were injured. Several flights have also been delayed following the incident.

The security forces have closed major roads, including Mogadishu’s busiest Maka Al-Mukarama Street, preventing the protesters from reaching their planned venue of Daljirka Dahsoon, a memorial of the unknown soldier.

READ: Somalia, UN seek over $1bn for humanitarian assistance

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