Somaliland agrees to ceasefire after five days of fighting in disputed territory
By Abdiqani Hassan
BOSASO, Somalia (Reuters) – The administration of Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland said late on Friday it had agreed to an unconditional ceasefire, following five days of clashes in the east of the territory that health workers say have killed dozens of people.
Heavy fighting broke out between Somaliland forces and militiamen in and around the town of Las Anod, the administrative centre of the Sool region, on Monday after local leaders said they wanted to rejoin federal Somalia.
Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but has not gained widespread international recognition for its status, and has faced opposition from some clan elders in disputed areas along its border with Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland state.
“Somaliland gov has agreed to an unconditional cease-fire tonight despite past attacks by militias,” Somaliland’s defence minister Abdiqani Mahamoud Ateye wrote on Twitter.
It was not immediately clear if the ceasefire was being observed on the battlefield, but Abdirizak Mohamed Hassan, a spokesperson for the group who oppose Somaliland rule, called the ceasefire “a lie.”
“Somaliland is planning and we know that they will launch an invasion tomorrow,” he told Reuters. “We are oppressed people who were attacked for five days with heavy weapons.”
Residents of the town said homes and health centres had been shelled in the course of the fighting, killing at least 58 people and wounding scores of others.
The Somaliland government said militias, assisted by troops from neighbouring Puntland, had attacked military bases outside the town. Puntland, which has controlled the town in the past, denied any involvement.
The United States has said the indiscriminate shelling of civilians in the town had to stop, while the United Nations mission in Somalia called for an immediate de-escalation of violence, the protection of civilians, and unimpeded humanitarian access.
(Reporting by Abdiqani Hassan; Writing by Hereward Holland; Editing by Sandra Maler)