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Djibouti government, opposition leaders in war of words after deadly Balbala attack that killed 19

Storyline:National News

Government of Djibouti and leaders of the political opposition party Monday have accused each other of instigating attacks that led to death of 19 civilians at a religious gathering in the capital.

The government of Djibouti says security forces opened fire after being attacked by an armed group of people.

“This morning… dozens of armed individuals came together before launching an offensive against the security forces,” said a statement from Minister of the Interior Hassan Omar Mohamed. The statement said nine security personnel were wounded, including an officer, but it did not mention any deaths resulting from the clash.

The minister said the violence was an “act intended to destabilize our nation” and was “orchestrated by malicious individuals receiving instructions from sponsors who act from abroad.”

Mohamed’s statement said several suspects had been arrested in connection with Monday’s incident.

Meanwhile political opposition accused the security forces of killing civilians in what the country’s opposition leaders are calling “a massacre” in Balbala neighbourhood.

Deputy opposition leader Omar Elmi Khayre told VOA’s Somali Service that civilians were celebrating at the religious event when police and gendarmes attacked the crowd. He said some of those targeted were opposition supporters.

Khayre said other opposition members were attacked by police during a meeting at their headquarters. He said the leader of the opposition, Ahmed Yusuf, and an opposition MP were wounded in that raid.

19 people were killed yesterday when the Djibouti security raided at gathering where hundreds of Djiboutians gathered were reportedly commemorating a late revered religious leader Sheikh Yonis Muse, the director of a local hospital said.

The development comes as Djibouti’s opposition parties continue a political campaign aimed to oust the long-serving president Ismail Guelleh who announced he would run for the upcoming 2016 presidential election to lead the country for the fourth time.