Somali opposition leaders postpone protest after last week’s clashes lead to deaths

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Somali opposition leaders have agreed to postpone a protest over election delays originally planned for Friday after last week’s clashes in which troops and opposition supporters exchanged gunfire, killing at least three people.

The government said it supported the right to protest and that it would work with opposition leaders to plan a safe and peaceful demonstration in 10 days’ time.

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“I ask the public to take the decision of postponement with us since we want a peaceful demonstration,” said one of the opposition leaders, Abdirahman Abdishakur.

“We have not given up on the protest.”

Lawmakers were due to select a new president on February 8, but the process was delayed after the opposition accused President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, who is seeking a second term, of packing regional and national electoral boards with supporters.

Troops and opposition supporters -- including some soldiers -- exchanged gunfire in Mogadishu last Friday in clashes that broke out during a protest march. Each side blamed the other for starting the violence.

“The government is sorry about what happened on February 19 and sends condolences to the candidates and citizens who were affected,” said government spokesman Mohamed Ibrahim Moalimuu.

“It was agreed upon to assign an independent committee that will investigate how things happened.”

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