Deadly Riots Over Food Prices Rock Mogadishu Marketplace

MOGADISHU, Somalia — A young man was shot and killed when thousands of Somalis protested in Mogadishu on Monday over food traders' refusal to take old currency notes amid spiralling inflation, witnesses said.

A shopkeeper shot the young man dead after dozens of protesters carrying clubs and stones broke into his store, and witnesses said police wounded a teenage boy while trying to disperse hundreds of angry people.

"The shopkeeper fired a pistol at the crowd and it hit the young man's head," one witness in the Madina area of southeast Mogadishu said, refusing to give his name.

Despite still being legal currency, many shopkeepers have been refusing the worn-out old notes, saying wholesale traders refuse to accept them.

The Somali shilling is valued at roughly 34,000 to the dollar — more than double what it is was a year ago — and many blame counterfeiters who mint the notes for the fall in value.

The problem has been compounded by sharply rising world food prices, leaving many in the lawless Horn of Africa nation of 10 million short of money to buy food, sparking several protests or riots in the past six months.

Already on Monday, thousands were in the streets of the bombed-out capital, clutching tattered old notes while shouting "Down with traders" and "We want to buy food."

All shops remained closed and the streets empty as protesters stoned the few vehicles that dared to move around.

"The whole city is up in smoke," protester Hussein Abdikadir said while rolling a tire he said he intended to burn in the Buulahubey neighborhood of southern Mogadishu.

"Traders have refused to take old notes. Food prices are high and we have nothing to eat," he said. "We will protest until the traders agree to take the notes and sell us food."

The exchange rate is so bad that Somalis must carry huge stacks of 1,000 Somali shilling notes just to buy daily necessities.