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New clashes push death toll in Somaliland to 112

Death toll has climbed to 112 as fresh fighting in Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland — among the fiercest that continued for more than seven hours — caused more casualties, medics say. 

“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 Abdimajid Hussein Sugulle, the director-general of a public hospital in Lasanod town.

The new fatalities took the death toll from three weeks of fighting to 112, Sugulle said, adding more than 500 were wounded.

Sugulle, the director-general of a public hospital in Lasanod, provided the latest figures to Anadolu Agency by phone.

Fighting between Somaliland forces and local clan fighters has been going on for around three weeks.

Sugulle said Tuesday’s fighting was among the fiercest and continued for more than seven hours.

He added that the casualties included medical workers.

At the heart of the crisis

Fighting started in Lasanod, the administrative capital of Somaliland’s eastern Sool region, after a group of local leaders, civil society groups and religious leaders announced last week that they would no longer recognise the Somaliland government.

In a statement, they said the territory will now be ruled from Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.

The Somaliland administration has labelled the local forces “terrorists” and blamed them for the violence.

The Sool and Sanaag regions have been disputed territories with both Somaliland and Puntland state claiming ownership.

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 marginalisation 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.

He said the only feasible and viable solution to the conflict in Lasanod is an immediate, unconditional and genuine ceasefire.

Somaliland forces must also withdraw from the Sool region, he said.

“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.

Isack Abdi, a Somali independent analyst who spoke to Anadolu Agency, said he believes both communities of the disputed regions and in Somaliland should live together as they have their entire lives and resolve their issues with dialogue.

He said although Somaliland has a point in claiming ownership of the territory, they should stop shelling a town full of civilians, including children and the elderly.

“The territory was part of the area that was under the British protectorate, but I can see that both sides have points. But they shouldn’t be fighting while there are other ways to resolve the outstanding issues,” he said.

Tens of thousands displaced as heavy clashes continue in Somaliland

Refugee crisis

The conflict in Lasanod has also caused mass displacement.

According to the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Somalia, Adam Abdelmoula, 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.

The town is disputed between Somaliland and the semiautonomous state of Puntland, with the neighbours having fought several times over the territory.

Protesters were out in Lasanod to demand the expulsion of Somaliland security forces and for the town to be handed over to Puntland authorities.

READ MORE: Many dead as protesters clash with security forces in Somaliland

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