Somalia: Fresh fighting breaks out in Las Anod city
LAS ANOD, Somalia - Fresh fighting broke out in the troubled Las Anod city on Monday morning, eyewitnesses said, following push and pull between local militia guarding the town and Somalilaland military, who have been manning the area for the last two months when the fighting first broke out.
Monday's fighting was reported around Sayadka Hill within the outskirts of Las Anod, witnesses added. According to reports, the area hosts Garad Abdullahi Garad Saleeban and Ugas Mohamed Ugas Abdullahi, who are senior critics of Somalilaland leader Muse Bihi Abdi, who has vast interests in the disputed town.
Also, the battle is raging on at Hamdi Hotel, where Somaliland officials are staying. Las Anod has been tense since the public uprising against the breakaway region started in December last year that forces regional troops to leave the city in the contested Sool province.
The town has been hosting a meeting by the local elders who have previously demanded that Somaliland withdraw its forces from the region. Somaliland pres Muse Bihi Abdi insisted the army were there to keep peace, leading to protests from locals who accuse the military from Hargeisa of occupation.
Last month, the Somaliland military killed over 20 innocent civilians who protested against the killing of a youthful politician, leading to uproar from the international community. The deaths also sparked outcry from the opposition which called for immediate probe as Bihi blamed Puntland and Mogadishu.
According to him, chaos in Las Anod were instigated by Puntland administration and the government of Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. On the other hand, President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, who has declared total war against Al-Shabaab, has been calling for dialogue in the troubled city.
Sool and Sanaag regions are disputed between Puntland and Somaliland, and traditionally, the people from the region have distanced themselves from the breakaway region. But successive Somalilaland administrations have been manning the regions through military, leading to endless animosity.
The fresh fighting comes also few hours after similar skirmishes were reported at Sanaag, the neighbors of Sool after the Somalilaland military also killed one civilian under unknown circumstances. Somalilaland announced independence in 1991 following a civil war in Somalia which led to toppling of Siad Barre.