Puntland political leader Abd Allah Yusuf, elected Somalia’s new president on 10 October, has pledged to work peacefully with Somaliland as he tries to restore order to the lawless country which descended into anarchy in 1991 following the ousting of Muhammad Siad Barri.
But his election alarmed Somaliland, hostile to a man long seen as the neighbouring territory’s arch foe. It warned Yusuf on 12 October against any attempted aggression and said it was on alert against any move to reunite Somaliland with the rest of Somalia.
“Full mobilisation of our soldiers is going on and will continue until Abd Allah Yusuf’s forces leave our territory,” a spokesman for the Somaliland president said on Saturday, adding that fighting had stopped because of heavy rains.
A spokesman for Somaliland’s defence office said the toll from the fighting, which erupted on Friday at the village of Adi-Addeye, about 30km north of Las Anod, had risen to 109.
Somaliland became independent
It was not immediately clear whether that figure referred to combat casualties or civilians or both. The spokesman said nine Somaliland soldiers were also killed in the fighting.
Las Anod has been a flashpoint during previous flare-ups between the two armies. Puntland and Somaliland have fought sporadic clashes for years over the ownership of several eastern areas of Somaliland claimed by Puntland’s leaders as their own on the basis of ethnicity.
But the cause of the fresh bout of fighting was not clear, with both sides accusing each other of initiating hostilities.
A Yusuf spokesman said he hoped the two territories would stop fighting and pursue dialogue. “The president is very much concerned about the unfortunate clashes that happened yesterday which caused heavy losses of life and property,” the head of Somalia’s presidential press service Yusuf Muhammad Ismail told reporters in Nairobi.
Yusuf was elected head of state by Somali lawmakers after two years of stop-start peace talks held in Kenya because of insecurity at home.
“Full mobilisation of our soldiers is going on and will continue until Abd Allah Yusuf’s forces leave our territory”
Yusuf, who has not yet been able to return to Somalia because of the continued insecurity, has asked the African Union to send 20,000 peacekeepers to disarm the militias controlling much of the failed state.
Ismail said Yusuf wanted an international fact-finding mission to establish the cause of the fighting and facilitate a ceasefire.
Yusuf said in a letter sent to neighbouring states and the United Nations on Friday that Puntland had told him Somaliland, which declared independence from Somalia in 1991, was waging “an all-out war”.