Somalia’s unrest continues over president’s stay in power

MOGADISHU, Somalia (AP) — Soldiers angry over the president’s extended stay in power took up key positions across Somalia’s tense capital on Monday, but there was none of the gunfire that shattered the previous night in Mogadishu.

As the mutinous soldiers stationed themselves at key intersections with truck-mounted machine guns, Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble called for a cease-fire and an emergency meeting to discuss the country’s security. He urged security forces “not to mingle with politics.”

But a defiant Col. Abdulqadir Mohamud Warsame, stationed along the key Maka al-Mukarrama street in the capital, said the fighting would continue if President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed doesn’t return to negotiations on a way out of the political standoff or resign.

“We need a government, not a dictatorship defying the norms of the land,” Warsame said.

The president faces growing opposition in Somalia and abroad after the lower house of parliament approved a two-year extension of his mandate and that of the federal government and he signed it into law it, to the fury of Senate leaders and criticism from the international community. The African Union was the latest to condemn the actions.

Somalia’s election, meant for early February, has been delayed amid disputes between the federal government and the states of Puntland and Jubbaland along with the opposition. The United Nations and others have warned that the uncertainty jeopardizes a country rebuilding from three decades of conflict.

On Sunday, hundreds of the mutinous soldiers, still in uniform, took up key positions as gunfire rang out. They are believed to have entered the city from military bases outside the capital.

Most of the soldiers belong to the clan of former presidents Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, who have vowed to forcefully dislodge the president if he does not return to negotiations over the election delay or resign.

Mohamud alleged that forces loyal to the president had attacked his house. But Somalia’s homeland security minister, Hassan Hundubey Jimale, denied that and accused “some people who are not interested in the security of their people” of launching an attack in Mogadishu.

“Tonight’s unacceptable violence is instigated and led by forces that want to send Somalia back to its dark past,” the federal government said in a statement on Sunday. “Militia and foreign interference have combined to frighten the Somali people into submission.”

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