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Two killed as Somalis riot over high food prices

Troops opened fire and killed at least two people as tens of thousands of people rioted over high food prices in Somalia’s capital Monday.
Image: Somalis burn tires
Somalis riot against rising food prices and soaring inflation in Mogadishu on Monday.Abdurashid Abikar / AFP - Getty Images
/ Source: The Associated Press

Troops opened fire and killed at least two people as tens of thousands of people rioted over high food prices in Somalia’s capital Monday.

Several people also were injured in the protest in Mogadishu in this Horn of Africa nation.

Prices of rice and other food staples have been rising rapidly around the world, boosted by poor weather in some nations and rising demand. In Africa, prices of some staple foods have increased more than 50 percent in a matter of weeks.

The Somali protesters include women and children, who marched to protest the refusal of traders to accept old 1,000-shilling notes, blaming that for the skyrocketing food prices.

Shops shuttered
Soon after, tens of thousands of people took to the streets, hurling stones that smashed the windshields of several cars and buses. Rocks also were thrown at shops and chaos erupted at the capital’s main Bakara market.

Hundreds of shops and restaurants in southern Mogadishu closed their doors for fear of looting.

Dr. Dahir Dhere said a man wounded in the protests died on the way to an operating room at the capital’s main Medina Hospital.

Protester Abdinur Farah says he was marching with his uncle in southern Mogadishu when government troops opened fire and wounded his relative. He said his uncle died before they could take him to the hospital.

Rapidly rising prices
In Mogadishu, the price of 2.2 pounds of corn meal has gone from 12 cents in January to 25 cents. Another staple, rice, has gone up in that time from $26 to $47.50 for a 110-pound sack.

Protests also have been held in three other African countries, including Senegal, whose president on Sunday called for the United Nations to dismantle its Food and Agriculture Organization, calling it an ineffective money-eater that failed to help avert the global food crisis.

Senegal’s leader, President Abdoulaye Wade, said he had long called for the Rome-based organization to be transferred to Africa, “near the ‘sick ones’ it pretends to care for.”

But, “This time, I’m going further: It must be eliminated,” he said in a statement. Wade suggested its assets be transferred to the U.N. International Fund for Agricultural Development, which he said was more efficient, and that that agency set up headquarters in Africa “at the heart of the problem.”

FAO officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

Wade’s government responded to protest marches by securing a deal with India that ensures Senegal’s needs of 600,000 tons of rice a year are met for the next six years. In Burkina Faso, the government eliminated duties and taxes on rice, salt, milk and all products used to prepare food for children.