Garowe Online (Garowe)

25 April 2014

Somalia: Forces Take Over Oil-Rich Area in Sool Region

Garowe — Somaliland's separatist administration on Friday deployed hundreds of its soldiers in the disputed region of Sool amidst looming threats of instability in northern Somalia, Garowe Online reports.

Speaking on Puntland-based independent station, Radio Garowe a local reporter who asked to remain anonymous said that heavily armed Somaliland troops arrived in Holhol village, with units within the forces seizing strategic oil-rich targets.

"Soldiers in fighting vehicles captured Holhol, the armed men were in military fatigues decorated with Somaliland army and they immediately stood guard at oil rich vicinities in the outskirts of the village," he noted.

According to independent sources, Somaliland is planning to dismantle a forthcoming clan convention in Sool regional district of Taleh which lies less than 100 km from Puntland capital of Garowe.

Despite surprise withdrawal from the historic town of Taleh by Somaliland forces on April 17, the sources further disclosed that local clan militias who come from the same clan as the self-declared administration of Khaatumo leaders are coordinating the offensives with Somaliland government forces.

Among the key organizers of Khaatumo conference is Federal Member of Parliament Ali Khalif Galaydh. Galaydh and his entourage last week arrived to warm welcome in Taleh.

In Septemper 2013, Anglo-Turkish Oil Exploration Company, Genel Energy withdrew its expatriates from Somaliland due to political pressure with the possibility that Federal Government of Somalia threatened license revokation, Somaliland officials initially disclosed.

A spokesman for the company told that security issues forced them to vacate the oil exploration fields in the separatist region.

Somaliland government awarded an exploration license for onshore blocks SL-10-B and SL-13 with a 75% working interest in August 2012 but Garowe Online has learned that Somaliland renewed the previous license by signing Oodweyne Production Sharing Agreement which covers blocks SL-6, SL-7 and SL-10-A in November 2012 with Genel Energy Company.

On August 6, Somali Federal Government signed an oil and gas exploration deal with newly established UK-based Company Soma Oil and Gas, but according to the agreement, Soma Oil and Gas would carry out seismic surveys in territorial waters while the onshore regions are likely to witness limited operations.

UN Monitoring Group on Somalia and Eritrea warned in 2013 confidential report that Western commercial oil exploration may spark new conflict in Somalia: "These inconsistencies, unless resolved, may lead to increased political conflict between federal and regional governments that risk exacerbating clan divisions and therefore threaten peace and security," the UN report noted.

Somaliland's neighbor to east, Puntland warmed of "consequences" in Somaliland's pursuit of oil exploration in Sool and Sanaag regions.

"Somaliland is creating conflict in the region. Somaliland cannot give land to foreign companies to explore oil when the land does not belong to Somaliland," former Puntland President Abdirahman Mohamed Farole said while he was delivering a keynote address at Puntland State House in Garowe on 1 August, a date on which Puntland people celebrated 15 years of statehood.

The newly elected Puntland leader Abdiweli Mohamed Ali Gaas pledged the restoration of Sool regional capital of Lasanod back in the hands of native residents at the height Puntland elections campaign.

Puntland and Somaliland have fought sporadic battles since 2002 over the control of territories mainly in Sool region.

Somaliland, located in northwestern Somalia unilaterally declared its independence from the rest of the country as a de facto sovereign state in 1991 but it hasn't been recognized internationally yet.

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