At least 19 dead in recent violence in Djibouti

Clashes with police result in at least 19 dead according to Djibouti opposition group, but government reports only nine injuries in recent violence in Djibouti

Photo by: AP
Photo by: AP

Djibouti President Ismail Omar Guelleh shakes hand with US President Barack Obama before a meeting in the Oval Office, Washington.

A Djibouti opposition group said that at least 19 people have been killed during clashes with police as people were partaking in a religious celebration, despite the government claiming only nine were wounded  as police officials were fighting against “armed individuals.”

Kadar Abdi Ibraim, spokesman of the opposition coalition Union pour le Salut National, told Reuters that the officials attacked people as they were partaking in a banned religious celebration. Adding that the police officials followed by attacking a home used as a meeting place by opponent figures.

He said at least 19 were killed and dozens wounded in the recent violence.

According to the statement released on the presidency’s website by the Interior Minister Hassan Omar Mohamed, "dozens of armed individuals" carried out an attack on security forces in the Buldhoqo area and left nine wounded, including a police officer.

The minister said that the violence against the security forces aimed to “destabilise our nation and sow divisions" and added that the situation had been secured.

Djibouti has occasionally faced violence between police and protesters demonstrating against President Ismail Omar Guelleh’s government.

During the 2013 parliamentary elections, a protester claimed the results were rigged by the government clashed with the police, but the government rejected the opposition’s claims.

Also in 2011, demonstrators who were inspired by the wave of revolutions across North Africa called the “Arab Spring’’ demanded President Guelleh’s resignation, however demonstrators were smothered by a crack-down in the government.

President Guelleh has been governing Djibouti since 1999 and a new presidential election is scheduled to be held in April 2016.

Djibouti, which is a majority Muslim country has a population of about 876,000 and is located on the Bab el Mandeb Strait -a gateway to the Suez Canal, known as one of the world's busiest shipping routes.

It hosts the largest American permanent military base in Africa, Camp Lemonnier, which is home to more than 4,000 American military personnel -mostly the Combined Joint Task Force- located on the critical point, Horn of Africa.

China is also planning to establish a military base in the northern Obock region of the country.

Furthermore, Djibouti is a vital port for landlocked neighbour Ethiopia, more importantly a railway line connects both countries’ capital for the transportation of goods into the Ethiopian market.  

TRTWorld and agencies