MOGADISHU, 19 February 2021 – Heavy gunfire, blasts and explosions rocked the Somali capital, Mogadishu, Friday as opposition leaders defied a ban on public gatherings to protest delayed elections.
The term of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, popularly known as Farmaajo, expired at the end of last week, without the designation of a successor and with talks on organizing elections in a stalemate.
Farmaajo was scheduled to hold a meeting later Friday with Somalia’s five regional presidents in the hope of resolving the deadlocked talks on organizing the ballot.
Most roads in Mogadishu were closed down Friday and the government said its forces repelled overnight attacks on a military base near the presidential palace in Mogadishu.
Opposition leaders have slammed a motion passed by the parliament authorizing Farmaajo to stay on in power until another president is elected.
The United Nations on Friday said it was “deeply concerned” by the clampdown on the opposition protests Thursday night and Friday in Mogadishu.
The world body called for “calm and restrain by all parties involved” and urged “that open lines of communication be maintained to help reduce tensions”.
International flights to the Aden Abdulle Airport in Mogadishu were cancelled Friday as shelling came close to the main airport’s perimeter wall..
The opposition march was ongoing along the main airport road at the time gunfire broke out and opposition supporters told reporters that they were violently attacked by government security forces.
Military and security sources within the government said troops fired in the air to disperse the protesters.
Observers and diplomats in Mogadishu have expressed fears that any escalation of violence in Mogadishu could split the security forces into clans and deepen Somalia’s woes.