Tuesday, 1 September 2009

Somalia: 'Fearful' Somaliland minister addresses crowd, police fire bullets

HARGEISA, Somalia Aug 31 (Garowe Online) - A government minister in Somalia's separatist republic of Somaliland addressed a crowd gathered in front of the parliament building Monday, followed moments later by police gunfire, Radio Garowe reports.

Hargeisa protest Aug. 31, 2009
Mr. Ali Mohamed "Waran'adde," Somaliland's aviation minister, was trying to reach the presidential compound in Hargeisa when he could not drive his vehicle through hundreds of people gathered around the parliament building.

Mr. Waran'adde, who is considered one of Somaliland's more popular ministers, got out of the vehicle and walked through protestors chanting "Down with Riyale's government!"

The protestors called on Mr. Waran'adde to resign from his post, witnesses said.

Hargeisa protest Aug. 31, 2009
Some reports said Mr. Waran'adde loudly proclaimed "I quit" in front of the protestors. Other reports said Somaliland's aviation minister chanted along with crowd, saying: "Down with Riyale's government!"

Our correspondent in Hargeisa described Mr. Waran'adde as being "fearful" of the crowd. The protestors were unarmed and peaceful, he added.

Eventually, the minister made his way through the crowd and passed on towards the parliament building and presidential compound area, which was sealed off by hundreds of police and soldiers.

Witnesses said the security forces opened gunfire moments after Mr. Waran'adde disappeared behind the troops, with local media speculating that the aviation minister issued the order.

There were no reports of injuries, however, but protestors were forced to flee in the face of a barrage of bullets.

The election crisis in Somaliland worsened last week when President Dahir Riyale deployed soldiers to block off entryway into the parliament building, as protestors gathered for the third consecutive day

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