Source: Agence France-Presse (AFP)
Date: 15 Feb 2011
MOGADISHU — Somali soldiers opened fire to break up a pro-peace demonstration in Mogadishu on Tuesday, sparking an exchange with other government forces that left three people dead and 11 wounded.
Officials and witnesses said the hundreds-strong march organised by the local authorities was interrupted when soldiers tried to disperse the crowd by opening fire, drawing return fire from the protest’s security escort.
“The protestors had peacefully walked a block away from the presidential palace when members of the military opened fire in a bid to disperse the crowd,” Mohamed Abshir, a Somali security officer, told AFP.
“A civilian and two Somali security personnel were killed and at least 11 other civilians injured,” he added. “We still don’t know why those security forces tried to break up the demonstration.”
The demonstration was organised by members of the Mogadishu local administration, including the Somali capital’s mayor, to support peace efforts and the beleaguered transitional federal government, participants said.
Witnesses said hundreds of people, mainly women, had gathered in front of the national theatre, near the presidential palace, where they expected a speech by Prime Minister Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed “Farmajo”.
“People were carrying placards inscribed with anti-violence slogans and some of them were waving flowers to support peace efforts,” Burhan Abdullahi, an eyewitness, told AFP.
“Then it suddenly flared up when heavy gunfire was exchanged. I jumped over a wall and saw many people scurrying for cover and others who remained caught in the crossfire,” he explained.
Shukri Moalim Ahmed, one of the march’s female organisers, said the demonstrators had only wanted to support non-violence and express their concern over the fighting that has torn the country for two decades.
“We don’t know why they opened fire on innocent civilians demonstrating for peace. One of the women standing close to me was hit in the head by crossfire and she died on the spot,” Ahmed said.
“I was able to run to take cover behind a nearby wall,” she added.
“We simply wanted to say yes to peace and no to violence. Obviously, some people don’t think like us.”
Security sources said there had been a disagreement Monday between rival factions in the Somali security apparatus over the demonstration, which some top brass had wanted to ban.