|Demonstrators accused food traders of causing a sharp rise in inflation [AFP]|
Police have fired in the air to disperse thousands of people protesting over rising food prices in the streets of Mogadishu, the main city in Somalia.
More than 10,000 people gathered in the southern neighbourhood of Madina on Tuesday and marched towards the main Bakara trading district, where rally leaders addressed the crowd, an AFP correspondent said.
No casualties were immediately reported, but on Monday two people were killed in protests, witnesses said. The crowd briefly dispersed after the firing.
"This is the worst problem facing the planet. Nobody cares about civilians and traders are harming us even more than Somalia's armed enemies now," Sheikh Mohamoud Abdulle, a Muslim leader, told the crowd.
"We can no longer ignore what is happening and we must respond to the best of our ability."
Fake money protests
On Monday thousands of demonstrators poured onto the streets to vent their anger at printers of fake money and unscrupulous traders whose preference for US dollars over the Somali shilling is helping to push inflation to record levels.
Rioters set tyres on fire and smashed shop windows in the trading district, drawing a fierce response from Somali security personnel that left at least two demonstrators dead, witnesses said.
Although there are no official inflation figures, UN monitors say cereal prices have increased by between 110 and 375 per cent in the past year as central Somalia has endured its worst drought in recent memory.
The dollar is now equivalent to 25,000 Somali shillings, up from an average of 4,000 shillings in 1991, when the country descended into lawlessness after the sacking of Mohammed Siad Barre, the president.
Since then, Somalia has had no central bank to regulate inflation.
The profiteering from fake Somali currency has created more destitution in the war-torn country, affecting the poorest of Somalia's poor, especially those whose wages are paid in the practically useless currency, Al Jazeera's correspondent Mohammed Adow said.
"Many feel that these riots have been long overdue. Faced with numerous other challenges the Somalia people seemed to have forgotten their currency woes."
|Hundreds of shops and restaurants were forced|
to close by Tuesday's protests [AFP]
Since the Islamic Courts' Union was ejected from power last year, more than a million people have become refugees.
In the past few months armed opposition fighters have gained strength while the US has been launching missiles against targets it claims are linked to al-Qaeda.
Cindy Holleman, chief technical adviser for the UN's food security analysis unit for Somalia, said the country has been hit by a number of disasters at the same time.
Speaking to Al Jazeera, she said: "We have a very serious, deteriorating situation. Rising food prices ... are affecting a lot of the urban poor who cannot afford to buy food any more.
"On top of that, you have the drought in central and southern parts of Somalia ... [rains] should've started mid-April and they have not come."
She said a humanitarian response is needed in the country and with increasing food prices, "you're going to see more and more people desperate" to be able to access enough food.
Source: Al Jazeera and agencies