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Djibouti detains opposition leaders after demo

Last Updated: Sunday, February 20, 2011 - 00:26

Djibouti: The authorities in Djibouti
on Saturday detained three top opposition leaders a day after an
unprecedented protest to demand regime change erupted into
violence that left two dead.

The arrests came after thousands of youths
descended into the streets for an Egypt-style protest aimed at
ousting President Ismael Omar Guelleh, who amended the
constitution last year to seek another term in April 8

The three are National Democratic Party chairman
Aden Robleh Awaleh, Djibouti Democratic Party chairman Mohamed
Daoud Chehem and Ismail Guedi Hared, whose Union for
Democratic Change organised yesterday`s demonstration.

They "were detained Saturday in connection with the
violent clashes that erupted Friday evening between the
demonstrators and security forces," Djibouti state prosecutor
Djama Souleiman told reporters.

Friday`s protest was unprecedented in the tiny Horn
of Africa country, a key regional ally of the West which sits
directly across the strategic Bab al Mandab strait from Yemen,
where similar protests have been raging for a week.

The demonstration had started peacefully but droves
of young opposition supporters -- several thousand according
to the organisers -- dug in at the entrance of Djibouti`s main
stadium for the long haul.

Clashes then broke out between demonstrators
hurling stones and riot police firing tear gas grenades,
leaving one protestor and one policeman dead, according to the
interior ministry.

"Two people, including a policeman, died as a
result of a demonstration organised by the opposition to
denounce the legitimate ruling regime and demand the
postponement of elections set for April 8," a statement said.

The demonstrator died when he was hit by a police

An earlier interior ministry statement accused
opposition demonstrators of committing "violent acts and acts
of vandalism" yesterday.

"At 6:30 pm (2000 IST), beyond the authorised
timeframe for the demonstration... participants attacked the
security forces who then attempted to disperse them," it said.

"Members of the national police were forced to
resort to tear gas grenades to protect themselves from a
violent and over-excited crowd," the statement added.

It also said groups of demonstrators torched
several vehicles and damaged several police stations.

"They had premeditated their attacks by taking
bottles of kerosene with them," the interior ministry said.


First Published: Sunday, February 20, 2011 - 00:26

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