DJIBOUTI, Djibouti - The Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Djibouti H.E. Mahamoud Ali Youssouf said today that claims 19 civilians were killed at Balbala during a religious gathering yesterday have been exaggerated.
The gathering was held to commemorate the birth of the prophet Mohammed. Community leaders had agreed with the authorities to gather at a designated site. However, hundreds of people subsequently assembled at an unauthorised site. When 50 police officers arrived to move the worshippers peacefully to the agreed site, clashes erupted and gunshots were fired from the crowd. It was later discovered that a small number of people at the gathering were armed with Kalashnikov rifles, machetes and knives.
As the police officers did not expect armed violence, they called for additional police and army forces. In all, fifty policemen were injured. Forty-two sustained minor injuries and were treated in hospital before being discharged. Eight police officers remain in hospital, with two of them suffering from gunshot wounds.
Seven civilians died. A further 23 were injured. Fourteen of these people sustained minor injuries and have since been discharged from hospital.
The situation is calm and everything is under control.
Today, the leaders of the affected community expressed their condolences to the families of victims. They also condemned those responsible for the clashes and their actions that were intended to cause chaos in Djibouti.
The government deplores the opposition’s attempts to inflame the situation by using social networks to incite hatred and violence.
The Chief Prosecutor for the Republic of Djibouti has launched a formal investigation. A number of arrests have been made and further details will be announced in due course on completion of the investigation. We will ensure that the culprits are brought to justice.