October 15, 2007

MOGADISHU —  At least four people were killed in new fighting between forces from the breakaway Somali states of Somaliland and Puntland over a disputed town on their border, both sides and witnesses said. “I can confirm … that heavy fighting broke out … early [Monday] morning causing casualties. The Somaliland forces waged the attack against our military positions in the northern outskirts of Las Anod,” Burhan Mohamed, a Puntland commander, said by phone.

“I cannot tell you the exact number of people killed in this fighting, but it is clear that a number of people died so far,” he added.

Several inhabitants, meanwhile, said the fighting had begun outside Las Anod, but had spilled into the town, located near the Ethiopian border and some 750 kilometers (466 miles) north of Mogadishu.

“I have seen four dead bodies in the outskirts of Las Anod district,” Abdurasak Ali Kirbi said.

Speaking from Hargeisa, which has been designated the capital of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, a Somaliland military commander also confirmed that new clashes had taken place.

“I was told that at least five people were killed this morning when fighting erupted between our forces and those from Puntland in Las Anod. They started the fire in the northern front line area and we repelled them,” he said, requesting anonymity.

Tensions between the two northern Somali regions have been running high for months, and October 1 at least 10 people were killed in a battle for control over Las Anod.

Somaliland broke away from greater Somalia in 1991, just months after the toppling of former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre plummeted the country into a still-ongoing civil war.

The region has since enjoyed relative prosperity, but failed to secure recognition as an independent state.
Neighboring Puntland declared itself autonomous from the rest of Somalia in August 1998 under the leadership of Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmed, the current president of the Somali interim government.