Somaliland Armed Forces Clash With Militia Fighters

Armed forces in Somalia’s separatist region of Somaliland clashed with militia groups on Tuesday, despite a ceasefire, local authorities said without giving a toll.

Somaliland, which has claimed independence from Somalia since 1991 but has never been recognized internationally, is often seen as a beacon of stability in a chaotic region.

However, political unease has surged in recent months, and earlier this month the UN said at least 20 people were killed after fighting erupted between government forces and militias in the contested town of Las Anod.

A ceasefire was declared on February 10 by the authorities, but both sides accuse the other of violating it.

“In order to stop the implementation of the peace and ceasefire efforts, armed groups launched a major military offensive on the bases of the Somaliland national armed forces in Las Anod and the forces defended themselves,” Somaliland authorities said on Tuesday.

But a traditional leader living in Las Anod, Abdikarin Ali Nur, accused the Somaliland armed forces at a press conference of having “launched a new military offensive.”

Local resident Ali Dhuux Ada said that “most people have fled from the town and there is a water and electricity shortage,” adding that the town’s hospital had also been targeted.

In a statement released last week, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Somalia said reports of heavy fighting were continuing to surface despite the declared ceasefire.

“More than 185,000 people have been displaced,” it said, with aid workers struggling to respond to the situation due to inadequate resources.

According to OCHA, women and children accounted for an estimated 89 percent of the displaced population, with many reportedly seeking shelter under trees or inside schools, which have been forced to shut due to the violence.

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In addition to the tens of thousands of people displaced inside Somaliland, more than 60,000 others have fled to Ethiopia’s Somali region to escape the violence, the UN’s refugee agency said Friday.

It is difficult to obtain an accurate toll from the clashes.

On February 7, the UN said that at least 20 people had died in clashes between security forces and clan members in the self-declared Somaliland republic, doubling a prior toll, and called for an independent investigation.

Somaliland, a region of 4.5 million people, is a former British protectorate.

It prints its own currency, issues its own passports, and elects its own government but its quest for statehood has gone unrecognized, leaving it poor and isolated.

However, the region has been relatively stable in comparison to Somalia, which has witnessed decades of civil war and Islamist insurgency.