March 18 (EUROPA PRESS) –
The armed conflict in the city of Las Anod between the forces of the Somali separatist region of Somaliland and militia groups in favor of joining the federal government is about to complete four months with an estimated balance of more than 200 deaths, thousands of displaced persons, new confrontations and no end in sight.
What is happening in the town is the latest episode in a long conflict, but the rise in hostilities has its direct origin in the assassinations in December of the president of the Somali opposition party Wadani, Abdifatá Abdulahi Abdi, alias ‘Hadrawi’, and the murder in early January of Mohamed Ali Saadle, bodyguard of an influential local businessman.
Both murders sparked a wave of protests in early January amid conflicting versions of what happened.
Then, the forces of the Somali independence government tried to violently stop the protests before provisionally withdrawing in response to warnings from the international community. The repression, denounces the opposition, left at least twenty dead. The Somaliland military claimed, by contrast, that they were repelling armed attacks by protesters.
On 6 February, skirmishes escalated into open combat in the town between Somaliland forces and militant groups after local leaders represented in the so-called Sool, Sanaag and Cayn Regions Unity and Salvation Authority (SSC ), will declare their intention to rejoin federal Somalia.
These combats actually represent a new episode in the long-running territorial dispute between the self-proclaimed republic of Somaliland and the Somali semi-autonomous region of Puntland, in the north of the Horn of Africa, since 2007.
The Puntland authorities have been accused by Somaliland of aiding the SSC militias. The semi-autonomous region, for its part, has denied any involvement while Somaliland’s unionist opposition believes that the pro-independence president, Muse Bihi Abdi, is behind all this violence in his effort to delay the elections.
The vote was scheduled for November 13, a month before the end of the president’s term, in a call to the polls that was seen as a milestone for a relatively peaceful state until a few years ago that has spent decades trying to gain international recognition. after it declared its independence from the rest of Somalia in 1991.
The president has denied any responsibility for Hadrawi’s death, which he has accused “enemies of Somaliland”.
The fighting seemed to have decreased in intensity in recent days but this Saturday Somaliland has accused the forces “led by Puntland”, in reference to the militias, of executing an attack against its forces at 04:30 this morning, according to a statement collected by the Hiraan On Line portal.
The Somaliland government claimed it was maintaining a defensive position when the alleged attack occurred, in violation of the “provisional ceasefire” declared by its forces.
In contrast, the militias hold Somaliland responsible for a “strong attack on the outskirts of Las Anod” and that “the forces stationed in the city are defending the city from secessionist forces.”
Neither party has provided casualty figures for these latest clashes.