MOGADISHU, Somalia (AA/AFP) – Hundreds of protesters gathered late Thursday in the Somali capital to protest against al-Qaeda-affiliated group, al-Shabaab, in a demonstration organized by the federal government.
The protest at the Eng-Yarisow football stadium amid tight security was attended by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and senior government officials.
The government dubbed the protest “Mogadishu Peoples Uprising” against the “evil deeds of terrorists.”
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud called on ordinary people to help flush out members of the Al-Shabaab group he described as “bedbugs”.
“I’m calling to you, the people of Mogadishu, the kharijites (renegades) are amongst you… so flush them out. They are in your houses, they are your neighbours, in cars that pass you by,” he said.
“I want us to commit today to flushing them out, they are like bedbugs under our clothes,” Mohamud added, as demonstrators waved flags and placards with anti-Al-Shabaab messages.
“They shed our blood, they robbed our property, they killed scholars, intellectuals and innocent civilians. They want to kill us by hundreds and thousands,” he said.
“The people are tired of massacres, killings, and all kinds of misdeeds and they are now saying to Al-Shabaab: ‘Enough is enough’,” Mohamud said.
He said his government closed al-Shabaab bank accounts and necessary measures would be taken against banks collaborating with “terrorists.”
Safiyo Abdulqadir, a protester, told Anadolu: “The residents of Mogadishu have enough of al-Shabaab killings and its bomb blasts against the citizens of the country. Their days are numbered and we all support our government efforts to continue fighting until all the remaining territories are liberated from the Khawarijs.”
It is the first anti-al-Shabaab protest in Mogadishu since the president declared a “total war” on the group after his re-election to a second term last year.
Since the declaration, the army, backed by local clan militias, has liberated large swathes of territory from the group, mainly in the south and central provinces of Hiran, Galgadud and the Middle Shabelle.
But the insurgents have frequently retaliated with bloody attacks, underlining their ability to strike at the heart of Somali towns and military installations despite the offensive.
Although forced out of Mogadishu and other main urban centres more than a decade ago, Al-Shabaab remains entrenched in parts of rural central and southern Somalia.