Monday February 6, 2023
Hargeisa (HOL) - Following a period of relative calm, violence erupted again in Las Anod between Somaliland forces and locals on Monday after traditional elders from the region declared autonomy
from Somaliland. Both sides said that they were attacked first.
Las Anod residents say dozens people have been killed and injured in the violence, including a family of eight who were killed when a mortar landed on their home. Somaliland authorities reportedly launched the mortars that killed the mother and her seven children.
A doctor at Las Anod hospital told Reuters that at least 34 people were killed
and another 40 wounded in the clashes.
At one point, shelling hit the hospital, said a second doctor who asked not to be named. "The wounded have now been removed from this hospital," the doctor added.
The breakaway Somaliland government said its forces were attacked by armed militia on Monday morning near Las Anod in Northern Somalia's troubled Sool region.
Somaliland Minister of Interior Mohamed Kahin Ahmed, who is in Las Anod, said its forces defended themselves against "forces armed with technicals, mortars, and rockets."
At least two Somaliland soldiers were reportedly injured early Monday morning when gunmen attacked a Somaliland army base and a hotel housing Somaliland cabinet ministers in Las Anod.
Somaliland's claims have been disputed by elders from Las Anod, who claimed they were attacked first in Las Anod by mortar rounds, some of which struck the local hospital.
The latest clash comes as traditional elders and leaders from the Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn (SSC) regions declared that it was not part of Somaliland, despite its authorities "trying to force it upon us contrary to international norms and laws." The statement affirms its intent to be administered by Somalia's federal government.
Somaliland Minister of Interior Mohamed Kahin Ahmed
The declaration comes after weeks of talks
in Las Anod following violent anti-Somaliland protests in Las Anod that killed nearly two dozen
people in late December. The SSC region has been the center of conflict between the Somaliland government and its local population.
Somaliland's interior minister dismissed the SSC declaration and said the communique was not reached by consensus.
"The communique is invalid because the agreement was reached in a private home, and many delegates were absent."
Garad Jama Garad Ali, the supreme traditional clan chief of the Sool, Sanaag, and Ayn regions, told Las Anod residents on Monday to defend themselves and fight the Somaliland Army.
"He who waits for an order to fight while his brother is being killed is a coward. Join the war; why are you waiting? Defend your people, blood, and country, " Garad Ali said. The traditional elder previously warned that Somaliland was inflaming tensions
by labelling SSC delegates as terrorists.
SSC Supreme Clan Chief, Garad Jama Garad Ali
The Vice President of Puntland, Ahmed Karaash, said he "fully welcomed" the decisions made by traditional elders and leaders from the SSC to disassociate from the Somaliland government.
In a statement released on Tuesday, Karaash said that what is happening in Las Anod is genocide perpetrated by the Somaliland government. He added that the Somaliland government would be held liable for the loss of life and destruction of property.
"As we all know, the people of these areas have become well-acquainted with massacres and constant displacement by the Somaliland administration, which wants to rule with repression and intimidation. The latest attack started this morning and is targeting the people of Somalia with the aim of disrupting the recent decisions made by the local people. May God have mercy on those who were martyred and those who were injured," said Ahmed Karaash.
Puntland previously called on international human rights organizations to investigate
Somaliland for inflicting violence against Las Anod residents.
In early January, Puntland President Said Abdullahi Deni said that his region is ready for a "military and political solution
" to the situation in Las Anod.
"If Somaliland does not accept the calls of the people of Las Anod, who demand that Somaliland leave the town and the entire Sool region, Puntland is ready to take all possible actions," said Deni.
Vice President of Puntland, Ahmed Karaash
Somaliland's opposition party, Waddani, called on the government and locals to exercise restraint and maintain peace.
The chairman of the Wadani Party, Hirsi Ali Haji Hassan, called on the army to avoid any action that could harm the residents.
"The nation is made up of its people; we always call for our citizens not to be harmed. We are calling on the tribal militias that rebelled to calm down and not attack the (Somaliland) national forces," said Hirsi.
He said the army has the right to defend itself, but he urged them to refrain from using excessive force, which he said could create further hostility.
He said that shooting at residents should never be a solution and called on all parties to negotiate.
"Guns are not a solution. Stop fighting; let's come back to the table and talk. We are calling for dialogue," said Hirsi.
Wadani Party Chairman, Hirsi Ali Haji Hassan