More people killed in Las Anod as locals clash with Somaliland troops
LAS ANOD, Somalia - A battle intensified for the second day in a row in Las Anod, witnesses said, with at least 24 people killed and 53 others injured as locals insisted they want to rejoin the federal government of Somalia by cutting ties with the regional administration of Somaliland.
The region declared self-independence in 1991 following a civil war in the North which had blessings of former military dictator Siad Barre but to date, the United Nations Security Council and other member states are yet to internationally recognize it. A number of clan elders now want Las Anod to be governed by Mogadishu.
Somaliland accused Puntland of sending fighters to the troubled town to fight alongside local militia but the semi autonomous region of Somalia has since refuted the claims. Doctors said a total of 58 people have been killed for two days in Las Anod, adding to the over 20 who were killed last month.
Local elders in Las Anod said electricity and water had been cut off, and health centres attacked with mortars, Reuters reported.
"Somaliland forces are carrying out heavy attacks on medical facilities and civilian homes. The deaths and injuries of civilians cannot be counted," said Mukhtar Abdi, a resident of Las Anod, the administrative centre of Sool region.
Over the weekend, a number of local elders and members of the civil society from Las Anod insisted that they don't recognize Somalilaland. However it remains unclear who started the fight but tensions have been building in the town for the last one month..
"Today, the (perpetrators) were supported by militias from the neighbouring Puntland region of Somalia and the so called Khatumo militia in a carefully coordinated manner," Somaliland's state broadcaster said on Twitter.
Puntland's interior minister Abdi Farah Said Juhaa said his government, which has controlled the town in the past, was not involved in the fighting, and that Somaliland should withdraw its troops from Las Anod and other areas, Reuters reports.
Hassan Sheikh Mohamud, the president of the federal republic of Somalia, for the umpteenth time asked the two warring parties to embrace ceasefire even as Somaliland maintained that it will not withdraw her soldiers from the region.
The fighting comes at the time Somalia is at war with Al-Shabaab, the Al-Qaeda's East Africa branch.