A regional official in Somalia’s breakaway Somaliland territory claimed late Thursday that security forces battled with protesters demanding presidential elections be held in November, resulting in at least five deaths and 100 injuries.
Somaliland declared its independence from Somalia in 1991 but has yet to receive significant international recognition. The region as a whole has been relatively calm while Somalia has been struggling with a civil conflict for three decades.
Muse Bihi Abdi, president of Somaliland, stated in a Facebook post late Thursday that the majority of the injured were members of the security forces “who were attacked with clubs, metal bars, and stones.” He didn’t specify whether the dead were civilians or security personnel.
“In no town or village will we tolerate anarchy and protests. You can expect to see them face to face. We will not tolerate violent protests against the government without permission.”
The opposition believes President Abdi intends to prolong the November election and accuses him of trying to get an extension of his term through the “Guurti,” the council of elders that serves as the de facto parliament of Somaliland.
Some protesters were killed, according to opposition leaders, when security personnel battered and then opened fire on them in Hargeisa and two other towns in Somaliland.
Protesters in the streets of Hargeisa were seen on video uploaded to social media throwing stones and setting tyres on fire while armed security personnel fired firearms and tear gas. When Shauntv tried to verify the videos on their own, they failed.
A presidential candidate and former leader of one of the two opposition political parties sponsoring the protests, Abdirahman Cinro, stated six people were slain.
It is only the beginning of the demos,” he continued, “until we obtain full democratic space and liberation from authoritarianism and bad leadership.”
Abdi Hassan Mire, the Somaliland police force’s second-in-command, reported that during the battles, scores of security personnel were hurt by protestors using knives, catapults, and clubs. He claimed that some had guns and actually shot at people.
The destruction of property and automobiles was reported to the police as well.
Somaliland Police Chief of Operations Ibrahim Abdi Haji claimed that more than a hundred persons were detained on suspicion of participating in the violence and would be formally charged in the near future.
On Thursday, six diplomatic missions, including those from the United States, the United Kingdom, and the European Union, issued a statement condemning the “excessive use of force” during the protests.