Somalia: Death toll hits 112 in Las Anod amid calls for ceasefire
LAS ANOD, Somalia - The death toll in the northern city of Las Anod has hit 112 with over 500 people critically wounded, medical teams confirmed, in what could be the worst internal conflict in Somalia, a country that has been struggling with instability for the last three decades.
Clan leaders in the Sool region have been pushing to shift allegiance to Mogadishu, the Somali capital from Hargeisa, the capital of Somaliland but forces from the breakaway region have stood their ground, accusing Mogadishu and Garowe of engineering skirmishes in the town.
The Director-General of Las Anod Hospital Abdimajid Hussein Sugulle said the numbers were exponentially rising, noting that there is a need for urgent humanitarian assistance in the region. A team from Garowe Online also confirmed the situation on Tuesday.
“More than eight people were killed in today’s heavy fighting alone, and many others were wounded. Some of those hit by bullets and shells were admitted to hospitals,” said Sugulle.
On Tuesday, he said, the city witnessed the worst fighting in as many months, adding that the local forces and Somaliland security teams clashed for several hours. There have been calls for a ceasefire with the United Nations leading the calls, even though no meaningful action has been taken.
Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn [SSC] regions have for a long time fighting for autonomy as Puntland and Somaliland compete for their control. Somaliland claimed self-independence from Somalia in 1991 but the region is yet to be recognized internationally.
Mohamed Husein Gaas, director of the Raad Peace Research Institute in Mogadishu, who spoke to Anadolu over the phone, said the conflict in Lasanod is rooted in Somaliland's “occupation” of the Sool region since 2007, which is against the will of the overwhelming majority of the local population.
“This prolonged occupation has led to extreme political, economic, and social marginalization and subjugation of the Dhulbahante clan, which includes the assassinations of more than 120 prominent community leaders and clan elites. In response, the Lasanod population rose up to demonstrate against Somaliland, where Somaliland used excessive force against demonstrating civilians,” he said.
According to him, only a genuine ceasefire would lead to cessation of hostilities in the town, adding that there is an urgent need for Somaliland to pull out soldiers from the city for dialogue to be initiated. Somaliland has refused to withdraw from the town.
“Implementing these two things can provide a good environment conducive to political dialogue between Dhulbahante clan leaders, Somaliland authorities, and the federal government of Somalia with the support of international actors and UNSOM,” he added, referring to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Somalia.
Adam Abdelmoula, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, the clashes have displaced more than 80,000 people, compounding the drought-induced humanitarian crisis in Sool and Sanaag.
“Each day, around 1,000 Somalis are crossing into Ethiopia to escape clashes in Laascaanood [Lasanod] Sool region. So far, more than 60,000 have arrived,” the UN said earlier this week.
President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud has insisted that Somalia will not meddle in the ongoing conflict but insisted that the two parties should embrace a ceasefire. The local teams have also insisted that they will shift allegiance to Mogadishu as they push for the delimitation of a new state in Somalia.