Gunfire erupts in Mogadishu as Somali government forces seal off streets

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Mohamed Nass - Cairo - MOGADISHU (Reuters) – A gunbattle erupted on Friday in central Mogadishu as Somali government forces sealed off streets to prevent a protest over delayed elections, hours after fighters loyal to the government and to the political opposition exchanged gunfire.

Between those clashes, prominent opposition figure Abdirahman Abdishakur Warsame Wadajir posted a video of himself leading a small crowd of demonstrators into the street in defiance of a government ban on demonstrations.

Somalia’s former president, Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed, accused government troops of attacking a hotel where he was staying with another former president ahead of Friday’s rally.

Somalia’s minister of security, Hassan Hundubey Jimale, accused the opposition of starting the fighting.

Any spillover of political rivalries into open conflict will dismay Somalia’s allies, and play into the hands of the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab insurgency, which mounts attacks on civilians in East Africa in its bid to impose strict Islamic law.

Reporting by Abdiqani Hassan in Bossaso; Writing by Katharine Houreld; editing by John Stonestreet

IMAGE: A Somali demonstrator runs during a street protest in the capital Mogadishu, June 10, 2011. REUTERS/Omar Faruk

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