police chief suspended over ‘attempted obstruction of parliament leadership vote’

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Somalia’s Security Minister Abdullahi Mohamed Nur on Wednesday suspended police chief Abdi Hassan Hijar over “attempted obstruction” of an election for parliament leadership which was expected to be held in Mogadishu.

In a press conference held late on Tuesday night, Hijar said his troops were not ready to shoulder responsibility for the security of election venue and called for the postponement of the vote, in a sign of escalating row between the Horn of Africa country’s most powerful leaders.

In a letter, Somali Minister of Internal Security Abdullahi Mohamed Nur said he had received information indicating that the police boss was involved in “acts endangering the safety” of top government officials and other politicians. He also accused Mr Hijar of meddling in politics and brazenly attempting to stonewall election for new parliament speaker.

Somali Prime Minister Mohamed Hussein Roble said, in a statement on Tuesday, that he had authorized African Union peacekeepers to take over security of Afisyoni air force hanger where the parliament vote would be held, citing “severity of challenges impeding the completion of elections”. 

In a separate statement, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo urged AU peacekeepers to stick to the September 17 agreement and avoid meddling in the tasks of Somali police, in reference to the call by Somali PM for ATMIS takeover of security responsibility for Afisyoni tent.

On Monday, Interim speaker of parliament said police chief Abdi Hassan Hijar denied him access to the heavily fortified airport hanger, hours before he was attacked by members of the National Intelligence and Security Agency. 

Chairman of a parliamentary committee tasked with the organization of election for speaker and his deputies, tweeted that police chief and commander of presidential guards forced staff and MPs to vacate parliament compound near the presidential palace.

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