28 November 2012

Somalia: Six Killed As Local Militia Clashes With Somaliland Over Elections

Garowe — At least six people were killed Wednesday in Huddun district of Sool region in northern Somalia in armed clashes between Somaliland security forces and local militias who have rejected Somaliland's elections, Garowe Online reports.

Local sources have reported that 4 Somaliland soldiers were killed while the local militias lost 2 fighters in pitched battles, where the two sides used heavy weapons including artillery.

At least 5 others were wounded during the fighting, with local sources reporting that all 5 wounded persons were civilians.

The fighting erupted on Wednesday morning as Somaliland security forces attempted to place ballot boxes in Huddun district of Sool region, as part of Somaliland local elections. Yesterday, gunmen loyal to the Somaliland-appointed mayor of Erigabo town in Sanaag region attacked the local offices of the Somaliland Election Commission in a dispute over the number of voting stations.

In recent days, local populations in Sool and Sanaag regions have staged protests rejecting participation in Somaliland's local elections, which occurred only in Las Anod, which is under Somaliland military control.

Reports of fighting with casualties in Huddun district on Wednesday took up major headlines in Somali media, including websites and satellite TV stations such as Universal TV, but VOA Somali Section that provides national coverage in Somalia did not report Wednesday's election related violence involving Somaliland forces.

In Sanaag region, Puntland security forces accompanying Puntland Deputy Security Minister Abdijamal Osman Mohamed deployed in most parts of Sanaag region and compelled Somaliland forces to withdraw back to Erigabo town.

Somaliland forces were aiming to bring ballot boxes for voting in towns in Sanaag region, but local populations staged anti-Somaliland protests. Somaliland Election Commission later announced that Wednesday's local elections have been "cancelled" in Sanaag region due to "security reasons", with the exception of Erigabo town.

Earlier this week, Puntland Information Minister Mohamud Aideed Dirir warned that Somaliland is "destabilizing regional security" by deploying its forces in parts of Sool and Sanaag regions.

Puntland and Somaliland administrations have battled for control over Sool and Sanaag regions since 2002.

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