, HARGEYSA, Sept 12 – At least three people died and several others were injured in the breakaway state of Somaliland when angry demonstrators clashed with riot police Saturday, officials and witnesses said.
The clashes erupted when opposition demonstrators chanting anti-government slogans tried to break into the parliament building after police tried to stop a debate scheduled on a motion to impeach the president.
"They tried to enter the parliament building by force and the riot police stopped them. There were clashes and so far three people have died," a Somaliland police officer told AFP on condition of anonymity.
The protestors also burned three police vehicles and set fire to tires in the streets, he added.
Witnesses said the riot police opened fire onto the crowd.
"We were peacefully demonstrating this morning when the police aggressively dispersed the crowds by indiscriminately spraying them with gunfire. They killed three civilians and injured several others," witness Mohamed Salad said.
Tempers have been running high over the impeachment motion all week.
On Tuesday police swarmed into parliament after lawmakers fought among themselves and one drew a pistol.
Tension has mounted in the breakaway state after the postponement of the presidential election scheduled for September 27.
The election has already been delayed twice, notably over a disagreement concerning the voters’ register.
President Dahir Riyale Kahin, in power since May 2002, is seeking re-election but faces a stiff challenge from Faisal Ali Warabe, of the Justice and Welfare Party, and Ahmed Mohamed Mohamoud, of the Development and Solidarity Party.
A former British protectorate, Somaliland broke away from the rump Somalia 10 months after Somali strongman Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991.
More stable and economically viable than central and southern Somalia in recent years, Somaliland is seeking international recognition as an independent state.