At least three people died in intercommunal violence in Djibouti.
Police intervened when fighting broke out on August 1st, in several parts of the capital Djibouti, between the ethnic Afar group, which straddles Djibouti’s borders with Ethiopia and Eritrea, and the Issa, Djibouti’s other main ethnic group.
“There were several extremely serious criminal acts. Houses were intentionally set on fire,” Lamisse Mohamed Said told public television on August 2nd, without giving any possible reason for the violence.
“Innocent people were gratuitously attacked,” she said.
Three people had died, she added, without specifying whether they had done so during the intercommunal fighting or after police intervened.
Interior Minister Said Nouh Hassan, in a televised speech broadcast overnight, referred to “events of a new magnitude” which he described as “intolerable”.
The AFP news agency reported that local residents spoke of a dozen killed, one saying a baker had been “lynched by Afar youths”.
Witnesses told AFP that the violence began in the Warabaley district, where Issa homes were torched, then spread to other areas.
Following the violence in Djibouti, several people were detained, the public prosecutor said.
“We are taking firm measures against those who sow these troubles and crimes in our country,” she said.
August 2nd was calm, with a major police presence remaining in some areas of the capital, but internet connections were erratic and Facebook inaccessible.
Djibouti social media platforms have been extra busy for days following similar violence in neighboring Ethiopia in late July.
Flanked by Somalia and opposite Yemen, Djibouti has remained stable in a volatile neighborhood.
Djibouti’s presumed stability has drawn foreign military powers, such as former colonial ruler France, the United States and China, to establish bases there.
At the same time, the country has also seen an erosion of press freedoms and a crackdown on dissent as it attempts to please foreign interest.
Earlier, while there was violence in Ethiopia, Djibouti blocked a vital transit point.
The president of the Somali Regional State, Mustafa Mohammed Omar, said that a vital road and rail trade route linking the landlocked capital of Addis Ababa to the seaport of Djibouti had been blocked.
President Omar said the road and rail route had been blocked on Saturday by local youth protesting against an attack.
“We are working to open the Djibouti rail and road today,” Omer told Reuters in a text message. “Discussing with the youth and people,” he added.
On July 27th, the Somali region government said militia from the neighboring region of Afar had attacked and looted a town, the latest flare-up in a local boundary dispute that adds to broader tensions in the Horn of Africa nation.
Ali Bedel, a spokesperson for the Somali regional government, said Afar militia “massacred hundreds of civilians” in Gedamaytu, also known as Gabraiisa, a town at the center of a long-running regional boundary dispute in northeast Ethiopia.
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