Gun battle erupts near Somalia’s presidential palace

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MOGADISHU, Somalia - Heavy clashes broke out early Friday between security guards of opposition leaders and government forces near Somalia's presidential palace in the capital Mogadishu, with several people feared dead. 

Local sources told Anadolu Agency that the fighting took place at Daljirka Dahson Square, where Somalia's opposition presidential candidates planned to hold an anti-government rally later in the day. 

"The government forces attacked the Maida Hotel, where I and the former president [Sharif Sheikh Ahmed] were staying,” former President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud said in a brief statement posted on Twitter after the firefight.

“It is unfortunate that the outgoing president is shedding the blood of citizens who are preparing for a peaceful demonstration to express their views,” he added.

The Maida Hotel is located a short distance away from the presidential palace.

The number of casualties is not yet known. Anadolu Agency contacted the national police, but they did not respond.

The gunfight comes a day after the Somali government announced that it had banned all public gatherings including demonstrations, but opposition leaders defied the order and prepared to hold a massive rally in the morning.

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