Friday 15 December 2017

Violence breaks out in Somalia ahead of presidential election

A Somali policeman stands guard along a road which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
A Somali policeman stands guard along a road which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
Somali government soldiers guard a road which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
A general view shows a street which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
A Somali policeman stands guard along a road which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
Somali soldiers providing security stand near a checkpoint on the eve of presidential elections in Mogadishu, Somalia Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2017. (AP Photo/Farah Abdi Warsameh)

Abdi Guled in Mogadishu

Two mortar rounds fired by suspected extremists have hit near Mogadishu's international airport, close to the heavily guarded venue where Somalia's presidential election will be held on Wednesday, police said.

There were no immediate reports of deaths.

Separately, residents in a town outside Mogadishu said suspected al-Shabab extremists launched an attack on an African Union military base there.

The two attacks, which were reported around the same time, heightened concerns about the security of an election that al-Shabab extremists have threatened to disrupt with violence.

Somali government soldiers guard a road which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
Somali government soldiers guard a road which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

A resident of Arbacow town, Ahmed Hassan, said heavy gunfire and explosions could be heard as African Union (AU) forces battled the extremists.

The AU mission later said in a tweet that "the militants were repulsed with maximum power and withdrew, with casualties expected". It said the AU force had no casualties.

A general view shows a street which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
A general view shows a street which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

Wednesday's presidential election is being held in a former air force base in Mogadishu. The city has been in lockdown, with near-empty streets.

The security threat from the al Qaida-linked al-Shabab has helped to delay the election several times since last year.

A Somali policeman stands guard along a road which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar
A Somali policeman stands guard along a road which was blocked to control motor vehicle traffic, during a security lock down in Somalia's capital Mogadishu, February 7, 2017. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

The home-grown extremist group has lost some of its territory under pressure from the AU force, which numbers more than 20,000, and from Somalia's security forces.

But al-Shabab continues to carry out deadly attacks in the capital and elsewhere. In late January, at least 11 people were killed and 50 injured after extremist fighters stormed a hotel in Mogadishu.

Press Association

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