NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A tense political dispute between Somalia’s president and prime minister threatened to broaden into a regional crisis on Friday after the president accused neighboring Djibouti of unlawfully detaining his former national intelligence chief.
Djibouti’s foreign minister, Mahmoud Ali Youssouf, quickly denied Somalia’s statement in a social media post, calling the claim fake news that tried to “create confusion and drag Djibouti into Somalia internal challenges.” He asserted that a Turkish Airlines flight to Somalia’s capital with former intelligence chief Fahad Yasin aboard didn’t take off from Djibouti because a pilot didn’t have special authorization to land in Mogadishu, and that all passengers would return to Istanbul for another flight.
Yasin is a close ally of Somali President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed who has been accused by critics of trying to extend his stay in power after national elections set for last February were delayed.
Tensions between the president and Prime Minister Hussein Roble, tasked with leading election preparations, have risen sharply in recent days over the high-profile case of a missing intelligence agent, Ikran Tahlil Farah. The prime minister suspended Yasin after the intelligence agency asserted that the al-Shabab extremist group had killed the agent – an allegation that al-Shabab denied.
On Thursday, Somalia’s president suspended the prime minister’s powers to hire and fire, leading to a new outcry.
The international community has urged calm amid fears of a return to open gunfire in the streets of Mogadishu over heightened political tensions.