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Somalia: Heavy gunfire erupts at opposition march in Mogadishu | Protests News



The violence comes after weeks of tensions over delayed elections in the Horn of Africa nation.

Gunfire and blasts have erupted in Somalia’s capital of Mogadishu, according to witnesses, Somali government and opposition leaders, as security forces clashed with protesters angered by delayed elections.

It was unclear who opened fire first, but one witness Yusuf Mohamed reported a “heavy exchange of gunfire” between security forces and armed guards protecting opposition supporters who began their march along the main airport road.

“There can be casualties but we are taking cover now I don’t know exactly what happened,” he told the AFP news agency.

Another witness Fadumo Moalim told AFP: “We were peacefully walking along the airport road together with former Prime Minister Hassan Ali Kheire, when the security forces opened fire on us, creating mayhem.”

A video seen by Al Jazeera from an anti-government demonstration showed civilians in face masks waving Somali flags scattering as gunfire erupted.

The violence comes after weeks of tensions over the holding of delayed elections in the Horn of Africa nation.

Al Jazeera’s Catherine Soi, reporting from Nairobi, said that the gunfire erupted in an area close to the airport and that government and opposition sources had reported incidents.

“We have been told that the whole area where the incident happened has been cordoned off by the police and military,” she said.

She added that huge blasts have been heard in several buildings in the area but the situation had calmed down.

“We are being told people in Mogadishu are going to the mosques for prayers, but there is still a lot fear,” she said. “Many people we have spoken are saying that they want to stay home, or they want to stay in the mosques and see how this plays out.”

The opposition is calling for resignation of President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed [File: Reuters]

Calls to step down

A coalition of opposition candidates is calling for President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed, better known by his nickname Farmaajo, to step down after his term expired on February 8.

The deadline to hold indirect elections was missed as the country’s semi-autonomous regions squabbled over how to conduct the vote.

Farmaajo is to hold a meeting with regional leaders on Mogadishu on Friday in a bid to resolve the election impasse.

The government had warned the opposition against staging the protest, due to soaring cases of coronavirus in the city. However the opposition pledged to press on.

“Tomorrow marks the onset of … mass protests all over Somalia which will continue until Farmajo steps aside to pave way for free, fair and credible elections,” said a statement from the opposition coalition on Thursday.

The group is allied against Farmaajo but includes candidates running individually for his job, including two of Somalia’s former presidents.

Tensions first erupted overnight, with both sides accusing the other of staging attacks.

The Somali government in a statement accused “armed militiamen” protecting opposition leaders of attacking a government security checkpoint and seeking to take over parts of Mogadishu.

The opposition denied this and accused government forces of attacking the hotel where they were staying.

“They have attacked Maida hotel where myself and former president Hassan Sheikh Mohamud,” were staying, said another former President Sharif Sheikh Ahmed on Twitter.

After the fighting overnight, government forces took control of the public square where the protest was to be held, and closed down all roads leading there, stationing military vehicles and troops around the capital.

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US says it has jabbed 82 million people, topping the world | Coronavirus pandemic News



But coronavirus rates have plateaued over the past week, raising concern over yet another surge in cases and deaths.

The United States has administered 82 million coronavirus vaccine shots, White House officials announced on Friday, more than any other country in the world.

During a coronavirus task force news conference, health officials said 55 percent of Americans aged 65 and older have now received at least one shot, up from 8 percent just six weeks ago.

“Altogether we’ve administered more than 82 million shots, more than any country in the world,” said Andy Slavitt, White House senior adviser for the COVID-19 response team.

But the US has also suffered more deaths than any other country in the world – more than 518,000 Americans have lost their lives to the disease.

President Joe Biden has set a goal of 100 million vaccines administered during his first 100 days in office [File: Evan Vucci/AP Photo]

US President Joe Biden who took office in January has promised to make tackling the pandemic a top priority for his administration and has set a target to vaccinate 100 million Americans by early May – to coincide with his 100 days in office. He has said the country is well under way to meeting that goal.

Officials say 450 vaccination sites have been set up around the country which has sped up the effort and they have plans to open up more sites as vaccine supplies increase over the next weeks.

In an effort to further boost the campaign, last week the US gave emergency approval to use a third vaccine produced by drugmaker Johnson & Johnson. Biden has also announced that the US will manufacture the J&J vaccine, a shot that requires only one dose, further speeding up the effort.

But even with the vaccination campaign well under way, officials said deaths and infection rates have plateaued in recent days, indicating that the nation could be at risk of yet another surge.

CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said amid the rapid spread of new variants across the country, Americans need to ‘double down’ on protection measures of wearing masks, maintaining social distance and frequent hand washing [File: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters]

Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Rochelle Walensky, said over the past week, there have been daily 60,000-70,000 new coronavirus cases, and 1,900 Americans have been dying every day.

“The current numbers remain concerning,” Walensky said, “cases and deaths are still too high, and have now plateaued for more than week.”

Amid the rapid spread of new variants, which have been detected in 48 US states, she urged Americans need to “double down” on protection measures of wearing masks, maintaining social distance and frequent hand washing.

“I know that the idea of relaxing mask wearing and getting back to every day activities is appealing,” she said, “but we’re not there yet.”

Several states have in recent days announced the easing of coronavirus restrictions on businesses and have lifted statewide mandates to wear masks. Health officials have responded with concern and urged Americans to continue to wear masks and follow precautions set under federal guidelines.

Biden blasted the decisions by state governors on Thursday, calling it “a big mistake” and “the last thing we need is Neanderthal thinking.”

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease doctor said the current numbers are an indication of a likely fourth surge in cases.

“When you have that much viral activity in a plateau it almost invariably means that you are at risk for another spike,” he said.

During the briefing on Friday, officials also announced that the CDC is working on publishing guidance for fully vaccinated individuals, indicating which activities they may or may not be able to resume.

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