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Protests and More Deadly Clashes in Somalia; Bomb Kills Minister

Halkaan ka akhri

New York Times

Somalia — Protests and violence racked this capital city on Friday, sparked by the announcement on Thursday that the country’s popular prime minister had resigned. The interior minister was killed by a suicide bombing at his house, and at least five other people were killed in clashes in the city, witnesses and officials said.

Thousands of people marched through the streets of Mogadishu on Friday demanding the reinstatement of the prime minister, Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who was pushed out of office as part of a deal among squabbling political factions to extend the transitional government for another year. The protesters, including many government soldiers, said Mr. Mohamed was the chaotic country’s only honest leader in recent years.

Two protestors and a policeman were killed in the Dharkanley neighborhood when another policeman fired at the protesters, according to Abdisalam Nor, an eyewitness.

Another protestor was killed and two more were wounded when two security guards fired on protesters who were trying to force their way into the Madina Hotel in the Hamarjajab district, witnesses said. Somali soldiers arriving on the scene immediately arrested the two guards, but the crowds of protestors continued to attack the hotel and others where lawmakers were staying. The Madina Hotel was set on fire.

Speaking on Radio Mogadishu, the state-run radio station, Mr. Mohamed praised the national army and urged it to stay in its defense lines and act with restraint, and he appealed to protestors to calm down and go home.

“I have seen your expressions and heard your calls,” he said. “You are part of the decision making — what you want must be heard.”

The death of Abdishashakur Sheik Hassan, the country’s minister of the interior and national security, in the bombing at his home was confirmed late on Friday by the minister of information, Abdulkareem Jama. Local radio reports, citing government officials, said that a woman, thought to be a relative of Mr. Hassan, gained access to his house wearing an explosive device, entered Mr. Hassan’s room and detonated the device. Gravely wounded in the legs and lower body, the minister was rushed to Benadir Hospital, where he later died, officials said.

The commander of the African Union’s peacekeeping force in the country, Maj. Gen. Nathan Mugisha, called Mr. Hassan’s death “a sad and senseless loss.” “We worked together closely over the past months since his appointment, and he was a driving force in much of the good reform and progress that we have seen recently,” the general said in a statement.

The president of the transitional government, Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, said the bombing would be investigated. It was the second suicide attack in Mogadishu in two days: bombers struck the sea port on Thursday, killing one person and wounding four others. The Shabab, one of the most feared of the country’s insurgent groups, claimed responsibility for that attack.

Protests against the prime minister’s resignation also took place in Galcaiyo, northeast of the capital, and in Belet-Hawo, in the southwest near the border with Kenya.

Somalia has been without an effective central government since 1991, when a military dictatorship was topped by clan militias that later turned on one another. The writ of President Ahmed’s transitional government does not run in much of the country, or even in parts of the capital.

SomaliSwiss@hotmail.com

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