Concerns over fighting near a disputed town in Somalia’s northern breakaway region of Somaliland, where at least 34 people were killed in hostilities in early February, has been raised by Qatar, Somalia, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Since the end of last year, tensions have increased in Lascanood between Somaliland and the local clan troops, and fierce violence has broken out all around the town, which sits on a major commerce route.
“The partners expressed concern about the ongoing conflict in and around Lascanood and called on all parties to adhere to the ceasefire, de-escalate, allow unhindered humanitarian access, and engage in constructive and peaceful dialogue,” the six countries said in a joint statement released by the US State Department on Tuesday.
Early in February, fighting surrounding the town broke out as elders in three Somaliland provinces, including Sool Province, where Lascanood is situated, declared their desire to re-join Somalia and published a declaration vowing support for the federal government of Somalia.
4.5 million people live in the region of Somaliland, which declared its independence from Somalia in 1991.
Yet, despite the fact that Somaliland prints its own money, issues its own passports, and chooses its own government, its bid for statehood has gone unrecognised, leaving it impoverished and isolated globally.
On February 10, Somaliland’s government declared a cease-fire, although both parties in the war accused one another of breaking it.
Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, director of the main hospital in Lascanood, told newsmen last week that the medical facility had been bombarded.
“They have destroyed the electricity system of the hospital, the oxygen system, the blood bank, the office of the human resources and other parts of the hospital building,” he told reporters.
Via associated media, Somaliland denied being involved in the attacks on the hospitals and schools in Lascanood.
The UN said last week that more than 185,000 people had been forced from their homes as a result of the fighting, and relief workers were finding it difficult to respond to the crisis due to a lack of resources.
According to a statement from the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, women and children made up an estimated 89 percent of the displaced population. According to reports, many people were looking for cover under trees or in the closed schools.
In addition to those 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.
UN human rights chief Volker Turk this month called on authorities to conduct a “credible and impartial investigation” into the clashes and warned that they compounded the already fragile humanitarian situation in the region.
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