Somaliland hospital director says 96 kiled in two weeks of clashes
A hospital director said at least 96 people have been killed in a two-week span of clashes between Somali security forces and clan members in the breakaway Somali region, Somaliland.
“We have 96 dead and 560 wounded.” Ahmed Mohamed Hassan, Director of Las Anod Main Hospital, told AFP by telephone.
Garaad Jama Garaad Ali, a senior clan chief, said on February 22, 2023, that 150 people had been killed and 500 wounded.
Somaliland, which has claimed independence from Somalia since 1991, but has never been recognised internationally, is often seen as a beacon of stability in a chaotic region.
However, political tensions have surged in recent months, leading to deadly violence between Somali Government forces and Somali loyal militias.
The latest fighting broke out on February 6, 2023, in Las Anod, which straddles a key trade route and is claimed by both Somaliland and neighbouring Puntland, a semi-autonomous state of North-eastern Somalia.
The UN says more than 185,000 Somalians have been displaced by the violence.
According to the region’s clan leaders and witnesses, heavy fighting was still raging on Thursday.
“It started in the early morning and by then, several artilleries as well as mortar shells had already landed in the town.” resident Mohamed Saleban said by phone, adding that people fled upon seeing this.
Hassan on February 22, 2023, said the hospital itself had been bombarded and that several employees had on “a number of occasions” survived the shell attacks.
“They have destroyed the hospital’s electricity system, oxygen system, the blood bank, human resources office and other parts of the hospital building,” he told reporters, vowing to continue working.
Call for investigations
The violence erupted after elders in the Sool region, where Las Anod is located, issued a statement pledging support for Somalia’s federal government and urged Somaliland authorities to withdraw their soldiers from the area.
Somaliland authorities announced a ceasefire on February 10, 2023, but days later accused Somalia of attacking its forces.
The UN said last week that more than 185,00 people had been displaced from their homes, with aid workers struggling to respond to the situation due to inadequate resources.
“Women and children accounted for an estimated 89 percent of the displaced population.” the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA said in a statement.
Many Somalians were reportedly seeking shelter under trees or inside schools which had been forced to shut due to the violence.
“In addition, more than 60,000 others have fled to Ethiopia’s Somali region to escape the violence.” the UN’s refugee agency said.
UN Rights Chief Volker Turk this month called on Somalian authorities to conduct a “credible and impartial investigation” into the clashes and warned that they compounded the already fragile humanitarian situation in the region.
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 unrecognised, 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.