NAIROBI: At least seven civilians were killed and scores of people wounded in clashes in Djibouti, the foreign minister said Tuesday, insisting the situation was now under control a day after the unrest.
Violence flared before dawn on Monday when police broke up a traditional religious ceremony in Buldhoqo district, close to the capital Djibouti, trying to move the people to a better site, Djiboutian Foreign Minister Mahamoud Ali Youssouf told AFP by telephone.
“There were hundreds of people who gathered there, carrying arms like knives and machetes, and also two of them had Kalashnikovs,” Youssouf said.
“Reinforcements of police and the army came and people refused to move and the clashes started.”
The opposition Union for National Salvation (USN) party has claimed 19 people died.
But Youssouf said the statement was false and the opposition were exaggerating the violence.
“Medical authorities recorded seven people dead,” including six men killed by machete cuts and one young girl killed by a bullet, Youssouf said.
At least 23 civilians and 50 police officers were wounded, he added. Nine civilians remain in hospital as well as eight policemen, two of the police with bullet wounds.
“The shots were coming from the people at the site,” he said. “Investigations have been launched and inquiry still going on as to how this incident happened.”
Interior Minister Hassan Omar has reported the “arrest of several people involved in the violence.”
Djibouti, a strategic port on the Gulf of Aden with a key position on one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, hosts several foreign military bases, including from the United States, France and Japan.
Many of the naval vessels tasked with combating Somali piracy in the region also use the country’s port to dock.
It is also a contributor of troops to the African Union force in neighbouring Somalia, battling Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab militants.