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Mogadishu hit by fresh food riots

Mogadishu, May 6 (AP): Hundreds of youths in Somalia’s capital lobbed stones at shops and cars and set tyres ablaze in the streets today in a second day of violence over soaring food prices.

Besides rising prices, the protests have been driven by shopkeepers’ refusal to accept some bank notes, apparently out of concern that so many bills are counterfeit. Today, shop owners met and agreed to begin accepting the notes again.

Today’s unrest was not as widespread as a day earlier when tens of thousands took to the streets in rioting that spread to all 13 districts of the capital. Troops fired into the crowds yesterday, killing two people. Today, protests were confined to the city’s Dharkenley and Wadajir neighbourhoods. But shops across the city remained shuttered, with traders fearing the riot could spread and prompt looting.

“Down with those printing the fake money!” the young men yelled, denouncing the growing number of counterfeiters who have contributed to escalating prices. “Down with opportunists!”

The Mogadishu Traders’ Union said it decided today to again accept the old 1,000-shilling notes and ordered its private security units to enforce that at the city’s main Bakara market.

“We, the big traders, have already decided to accept the old note and today we want to tell other businesses also to accept the decision,” said Abas Mohamed Duale, deputy chairman of the union.

Protests and riots over rising food prices have recently hit other nations, including Haiti, Egypt, Cameroon and Burkina Faso. The price of rice and other staples has risen more than 40 per cent since mid-2007.

The Asian Development Bank said yesterday that a billion poor people in Asia need food aid to help cope with the skyrocketing prices.

Soaring fuel prices, growing demand from the burgeoning middle classes in India and China and poor weather have contributed to the jump in food prices worldwide.

In Mogadishu, the price of corn meal has more than doubled since January. Rice has risen during the same period from $26 to $47.50 for a 50 kg sack.

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