At least five people were killed and 100 injured in Somalia’s breakaway Somaliland region when security forces clashed with protesters demanding presidential elections be held in November, a regional leader said late on Thursday.
Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 but has not gained widespread international recognition for its independence. The region has been mostly peaceful while Somalia has grappled with three decades of civil war.
Majority of those who were injured were security forces “who were attacked with clubs, metal bars, and stones,” Muse Bihi Abdi, president of Somaliland, said in a Facebook post late Thursday. He did not say whether those killed were civilians or security personnel.
“We shall not allow chaos and demonstrations in any town or in any village. They will be confronted. Unauthorized violent demonstrations to destroy the nation will not be accepted.”
The president’s current term ends in November but the opposition suspect Abdi wants to delay that election and accuse him of seeking an extension of his term through “Guurti”, a council of elders that acts as the de factor parliament in Somaliland.
Opposition leaders said some of the deaths occurred after security forces beat and then opened fire on demonstrators in Somaliland’s capital Hargeisa and two other towns.
Videos shared on social media showed protesters throwing stones and burning tires in the streets of Hargeisa, while some security forces fired weapons and tear gas. Reuters was unable to independently authenticate the videos.
Abdirahman Cinro, a presidential hopeful and former head of Wadani, one of the two opposition political parties championing the protests, said six people were killed.
“The demos will continue and it is just the beginning until we get full democratic space and freedom from dictatorship and bad leadership,” he said.
During the clashes, dozens of security personnel were injured by protesters who were armed with knives, catapults and clubs, said Abdi Hassan Mire, deputy commander of the Somaliland police. Some carried weapons and fired bullets, he said.
Property and vehicles were also destroyed, according to police.
At least 100 people suspected of involvement in the clashes were arrested and will be charged soon, Ibrahim Abdi Haji, head of operations in Somaliland Police, said.
In a statement on Thursday, six foreign diplomatic missions, including the US, UK and EU, condemned what they called “excessive use of force” during the demonstrations.