Today marked, according to reliable sources, the first serious engagement of the Somaliland army with motley militias including Daesh and Al-Shabaab fighters, insurgents, and units from Somalia’s US-trained Danab, Turkey-trained Gorgor, and Puntland’s PSF, many of whom fell during today and yesterday’s skirmishes.
The Somaliland ministries of Interior and Defense stated that the heavily armed militias fighting inside Las Anod of Somaliland’s Sool broke the unilateral ceasefire the government called on Thursday despite its acceptance by the region’s warring traditional leaders.
“The Somaliland government wants to inform the world that our nation is currently under attack from the Federal Government of Somalia. Somalia’s troops and those of Somalia’s Puntland have assembled at the border for an invasion. Unfortunately, we have no option but to defend (our country),” H.E. Abdiqani Atteye, Somaliland Minister of Defense wrote on both Twitter and Facebook.
The Ministry of Interior has also twice posted that armed militias have never ceased attacking army positions since the call misinterpreting the call to give peace and dialogue a fighting chance for weakness.
This follows a unilateral, unconditional ceasefire the government of Somaliland called on Saturday.
The ceasefire was tentatively welcomed by belligerent traditional leaders who previously called civilians and militias to militarily dislodge the Somaliland army from the region despite the fact that a sizeable portion of the forces belonged to regional residents.
Militias, led by a man allegedly belonging to ISIS’s Somalia chapter, Abdi Madoobe, unequivocally defied the ceasefire and the traditional leaders’ mildewed reception of it.
In a statement he read out to the media, Saturday, Madoobe, professing to be the leader of the ragtag army, vowed that anybody who as much as a welcomed truce with the Somaliland government or sympathized with the 32-year-old restoration of its 1960 independence would be shot on the spot. This clarified a question that hung over the sincerity of the traditional leaders and their welcoming of the government ceasefire which appeared meaningless in the face of the continued barrage of army positions.
Somaliland and Somalia’s international partners have also called for dialogue between the government of Somaliland and armed elements fighting inside the beleaguered town.
The Somaliland Ministry of Foreign Affairs found fault in that call, believing that the tone implied a leaning towards opposing militias’ standpoint. Sool, a Ministry’s statement, underscored was a Somaliland issue and had no room for split identities.
“The Somaliland government is committed to its responsibility to take action and firmly stand against terrorist groups to protect the safety of Somaliland citizens within its territorial borders,” the statement said.
The current military engagement was triggered by the last targeted killings in the town on 27 December 2022 which was followed by violent protests the next day. An adherent of the Somaliland sovereignty and the regional leader of the Waddani party was the victim – last of about 40 slain residents 24 of whom worked and believed in the Somaliland statehood. Despite the incongruity of the allegation, the people who masterminded the killings engineered the protests shouting that the government of Somaliland was behind the killing of its own people.
The killing and the protests were orchestrated, according to analysts, to, also, prevent voter-registration exercises that were to start in town on that very day.
Since then, the government withdrew its troops from the town to allow traditional leaders – most of whom ardent opponents of the Somaliland statehood – to convene in town in the hope that sense will prevail.
It became apparent, since then, that those leaders have chewed more than they could swallow by bringing with them armed militias and fanning ethnic hatred among the residents realizing only too late that they had completely burnt down all the bridges to constructive dialogue with the government.
Today’s fighting saw the two sides battling over a ghost town whose residents have fled to safety ill-prepared for such a dire development brought on them by the very leaders they trusted with their fate.
Political analysts believe that the Las Anod eruption to violence did not come unplanned. It came from drawing boards in the United States and Europe where anti-Somaliland groups and individuals joined forces to prevent the possibility of international diplomatic recognition of Somaliland. Besides, Somaliland and USA were seen drawing nearer to full political and security pacts, and the fact that the de facto republic is about to drill the first of many more oil wells in the coming few months.
Observers say the combination of these developments were much too demoralizing for detractors to weather without making countermoves.
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