West News Wire: In more than two months of fighting between anti-government fighters and Somaliland security forces following local elders’ declarations of their desire to reunite with Somalia, at least 145 people have been killed, according to the director of a hospital in a contentious city in the Somaliland region.
Around 100,000 households have fled the city of Las-Anod since late December, according to Abdimajid Sugulle of the public hospital in Las-Anod, who spoke to news reporters. He claimed that most citizens have left.
The hospital’s laboratory, blood bank, and patient ward were allegedly destroyed by mortar bombardment by Somaliland forces, according to the director. “Civilian households and medical institutions have been randomly shelled by Somaliland soldiers stationed outside the town. No single day passes without shelling and casualties,” he told the AP by phone.
Somaliland’s defense ministry has denied shelling the hospital, and the government has asserted it has a “continuous commitment” to a cease-fire it declared on Feb. 10. “Indiscriminate shelling of civilians is unacceptable and must stop,” the United Nations and international partners warned last month.
Somaliland separated from Somalia three decades ago and seeks international recognition as an independent country. Somaliland and the Somali state of Puntland have disputed Las-Anod for years, but the eastern city has been under Somaliland’s control.
The U.N. mission in Somalia and the U.N. human rights office had said the violence in Las-Anod killed at least 80 people between Dec. 28 and Feb. 28 and more than 450 noncombatants were wounded, including medical personnel. The U.N. has called for respect for medical workers and unhindered humanitarian access.
The conflict in Las-Anod began when an unidentified gunman killed a popular young politician in Somaliland’s opposition party as he left a mosque. Protests followed against Somaliland officials and forces in the city.
Somaliland’s government has blamed the unrest on fighters with “anti-peace groups and terrorism” and alleged that the al-Shabab extremist group, affiliated with al-Qaida, has supported some attacks.