Heavy gunfire broke out early Friday between security guards of opposition leaders and government forces near Somalia’s presidential palace in the capital Mogadishu.
Anadolu news agency said the fighting took place at Daljirka Dahson Square, where Somalia’s opposition presidential candidates planned to hold an anti-government rally later in the day.
“The government forces attacked the Maida Hotel, where I and the former president [Sharif Sheikh Ahmed] were staying,” former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said in a brief statement posted on Twitter after the firefight.
“It is unfortunate that the outgoing president is shedding the blood of citizens who are preparing for a peaceful demonstration to express their views,” he added.
The Maida Hotel is located a short distance away from the presidential palace.
Voice of America journalist Harun Maruf said residents reported hearing exchange of gunfire in the vicinity of the Unknown Soldier.
Somali government accuses “armed militias” of attacking positions of government troops in Mogadishu.
The statement from minister of security Hassan Hundubey Jimale says government troops defended themselves against the attack.
Former Prime Minister Hassan Khaire urged the public in Mogadishu to attend Friday’s rally “en mass” to “make sure what happened tonight never happens again”.
The federal government of Somalia and opposition leaders traded accusations of attacking each other’s positions last night.
Government says all public gatherings are suspended due to COVID.
The national army is reportedly controlling the site of the planned opposition rally, and have blocked the main roads to traffic; unclear if the rally will take place.
Bondhere street has been blocked off by a military vehicle, cutting off the Unknown Soldier’s monument where the rally was planned to take place.