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Cablegate: Somalia - Somaliland Crisis Turns Violent As Police Kill

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TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0973
INFO RUCNSOM/SOMALIA COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 NAIROBI 001926

SIPDIS

SENSITIVE

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL KDEM PHUM SO
SUBJECT: SOMALIA - Somaliland Crisis Turns Violent as Police Kill
Four

REF: Nairobi 1896

1. (SBU) Summary: In a violent escalation of Somaliland's
political crisis, on September 12, police opened fire during a
peaceful demonstration near the House of Representatives in
Hargeisa. Four people were killed, including a 15-year-old boy, and
several more were injured. Possibly over 100 people were detained
in indiscriminate arrests. The protestors had accompanied the
Speaker and approximately 20 members of Parliament who were
attempting to convene their first session since police forcibly
closed the chambers on September 8. Parliament re-opened on
September 14, and the legislative body plans to re-convene on
September 15. End summary.

----------------------------
President Reneges on Promise
To Re-Open Parliament
----------------------------

2. (SBU) On September 10, the Chairing Committee of the House of
Representatives issued a press release, stating that it would not
accept the closure of Parliament and rallying public support for its
efforts to re-open the building on September 12. The building had
been surrounded by a heavy police presence since it was closed on
September 8.

3. (SBU) On September 11, we confirmed that President Riyale had
agreed to open parliament the morning of September 12. However, also
on September 11, leaders within the UDUB ruling party and the
pro-government parliamentary group rejected Riyale's decision, and
we understand that key advisors urged Riyale to take a stronger
stand, and not allow Parliament to be reopened. In a September 11
press conference, the Chairman of the Guurti urged the public to
remain calm.

-------------------------
Police Fire at Protestors
Killing Four in Hargeisa
-------------------------

4. (SBU) On September 12, police opened fire during a peaceful
public demonstration in Hargeisa. The incident occurred near
Parliament, as the Speaker, backed by MPs and the public, attempted
to re-open the building. (Note: Reftel reports on the forced
closure of Parliament by police acting on the orders of President
Riyale and the Minister of Interior). Police initially attempted to
push back and control the crowd, directing them to disperse from the
area. After police requested reinforcements, the Police Commander
reportedly instructed them to open fire and clear the road of
civilians.

5. (SBU) Ibrahim Musa Wais, Executive Director of the
Hargeisa-based Samotalis Coalition of Human Rights, confirmed that
four people had been killed, including a 15-year old boy. One man
died immediately after being shot by police; three others died later
of bullet wounds. At least five others were shot, including a
mother of four who was shot near the hospital while going to visit a
relative. Health officials at Hargeisa Group Hospital have stated
that dozens of civilians were wounded.

6. (SBU) Our contacts confirmed that several police officers were
also injured, as protestors burned and threw stones at government
vehicles. One unconfirmed report indicated that several police
officers died when their vehicle was bombed, but other reports say
that the explosion was caused when a police grenade went off inside
the vehicle.

7. (SBU) On September 13, a public protest in the city of Burao
remained peaceful; police did not directly intervene with the
gathering.

-----------------------------------
Indiscriminate Arrests
Possible Extra-Judicial Proceedings
-----------------------------------

8. (SBU) Several human rights organizations report that once the
gunfire stopped and the crowds dispersed, police began making
indiscriminate arrests. Fawsi Sheikh, a human rights lawyer,
reported that that over 100 people were detained in Hargeisa Central
Police Station alone. The next day, several opposition leaders were

NAIROBI 00001926 002 OF 002


reportedly arrested in their homes, without police warrants. Two
women leaders of the Kulmiye party--Khadra Ali Jama and Hinda Hirsi
Iidle, both related to Kulmiye Chairman Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo--were
charged with leading the popular uprising and are still being
detained. Human rights advocates expressed fear that detainees may
be tried secretly by the National Security Committee and directly
transferred to Madheera Prison. None of the advocates has been
allowed access to the detainees, and government officials have
refused to talk about the arrests.

--------------------------------
Government Blames the Opposition
--------------------------------

9. (SBU) All of our contacts agree that the police killings were a
result of the government's heightened security posture and strategy
to take a more confrontational stance with the opposition. In a
September 12 interview with BBC Somali Service, President Riyale
blamed the Speaker of the House and the Kulmiye opposition party for
the events. When we spoke with Minister of Foreign Affairs
Abdullahi Duale on September 12, he expressed the same.

RANNEBERGER

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