Somaliland security forces come under un-provoked attack by armed foreign units hostile to the Republic of Somaliland
Government Briefing: 06 March 2023: THE SITUATION IN LAASCAANOOD
After several days of calm, today the situation in Laascaanood has deteriorated. Somaliland security forces, which are stationed in defensive positions outside the city and are acting in accordance with the ceasefire, have come under un-provoked attack by armed foreign units hostile to the Republic of Somaliland. This despite assurances made on the 5th of March to the BBC Somali Service by the spokesman for the committee of Garaads, Abdirisaaq Mohamed Hassan, that they accept the ceasefire.
Meanwhile assistance by the Government of Somaliland has been offered to the civilian population of the area and, on the 20th of February, the President dispatched a peace delegation of elders and other prominent leaders to Oog, a location close to Laascaanood, where they remain on standby ready to engage in dialogue with parties from Laascaanood.
The Government of Somaliland wishes to clarify the background to the present unfortunate situation in Laascaanood. Contrary to the well-orchestrated and sustained campaign of miss-information being circulated by groups and individuals seeking to undermine the integrity of Somaliland, we have evidence that the recent incursions into Somaliland territory and attacks on the town of Laascaanood have been part of a pre-meditated, well- resourced, and co-ordinated attempt to destabilise the peace and prosperity achieved by Somaliland over the course of the past 32 years. Furthermore, groups and individuals acting as part of this campaign against democratic governance in Somaliland, have deliberately set out to provoke a conflict and to draw Somaliland security forces into situations which endanger the civilian population.
The government of Somaliland refutes any suggestion that it is seeking to harm the population of Laascaanood and the wider region of eastern Sool as claimed by supporters of the forces hostile to Somaliland. On the contrary, since the formation of the Republic of Somaliland in 1991, the Sool region, with the support of the majority of its people, has formed an integral part of Somaliland and its democratically elected governments. Since 2007 the government of Somaliland has invested many millions of dollars in creating roads, water supplies, health facilities, including Laascaanood hospital and its operational costs, educational establishments, including primary, secondary schools and the university, and the provision of policing and security for the region. The residents of Sool have willingly participated in internationally observed nation-wide presidential, parliamentary, and local elections. They have elected their own mayors, municipal councils and members of parliament who sit in the parliament in Hargeysa. The current and former speakers of the Somaliland parliament are men from Laascaanood.
Responsibility for the conflict in Laascaanood lies with a consortium of terrorist groups and other external forces who desire to occupy, or annex, territory belong to Somaliland. Chief amongst these aggressors is a confirmed presence of significant numbers of Al Shabab fighters operating in eastern areas of the Sool region. These fighters now number in excess of 1,000 men. For some years there has been a growing presence of Al Shabab in the area and since 2020, a number of arrests of men suspected of being members of Al Shabab have been made by security officers from the Republic of Somaliland. At present 52 terrorists have been tried, found guilty, and sentenced, whilst a further 10 are in custody awaiting trial. The recent increase in Al Shabab activity in Sool has been exasperated by pressures exerted on their bases in the south and central of Somalia by Somali Federal Forces and international operations to destroy them as well as the presence of American troops in Berbera.
Al Shabab operations in Sool are publicly fronted by a man who calls himself Abdi Madobe. In common with many senior members of Al Shabab, this is a nickname. Madobe is the field commander of the Al Shabab unit based in their Miridle base at Buhoodle, but behind him are a network of senior Al Shabab leaders, men, and logistics support stretching all the way to the headquarters of Al Shabab in Jilib in south Somalia. Further supplies arrive by sea into Bosaaso from where they are transferred via Garrowe and Ethiopian territory to Buhoodle. On 22 February 2023, one such shipment was apprehended by the Federal Police of Ethiopia who are co-operating with the Somaliland Government to counter terrorist threats.
Other forces ranged against Republic of Somaliland include men brought from Puntland along with a substantial quantity of combat vehicles and weapons. The Puntland capital town of Garowe is now the command base for the forces fighting against Somaliland army in eastern Sool region. Also present are former members of the Somali Federal Government’s army. These men belonged to brigades known as Haramad, Gorgor, and Danab which were established by the Farmajo government and trained by Turkish and USA military advisors. Many men from eastern Sool were recruited to these forces and they have now returned north to eastern Sool Region. The government of Hassan Sheikh has described them as deserters. Evidence for the origin of these fighters has been gathered by members of the intelligence community and from information acquired from prisoners of war captured during clashes with the Somaliland security forces.
It is the illegal actions of these terrorists and forces which originate from outside Somaliland and their incursions into territories long established as an integral part of the Republic of Somaliland that has resulted in the deaths and displacement of the civilian population. According to statistics held by the governor of Laascaanood, before the town and surrounding area was invaded, the population numbered some 80,000 persons. By unilaterally launching attacks on police and security personnel inside the town, the actions of these hostile forces have exposed the civilian population to danger, death, and loss of property. Video evidence also shows these groups attacking infrastructure provided by the Government of Somaliland for the benefit of the population. The most significant incident involved the destruction of Laascaanood hospital after the staff had relocated their work to the safer environment of the university buildings. Other evidence shows the destruction of civilian properties which is then blamed on the Somaliland security forces.
In addition to the loss of life and destruction of property inflicted on the inhabitants of Laascaanood by the invasion, the Government of Somaliland wishes to remind members of the international community of the extreme threat to the security of the wider region in the Horn of Africa. The peace, democracy, and economic prosperity created by Somaliland is in
stark contrast to the instability and insecurity affecting other parts of the Somali region. The stability of Somaliland and the diligence of its security apparatus working in co-operation with foreign governments, has held in check advances by terrorist groups, such as Al Shabab, with links to ISIS and Al Qaeda. It has also brought major international investors into the region and enhanced the stability of neighbouring countries. If the hostile incursion in eastern Sool remains unchallenged, it will allow terrorism and aggression to spread causing a widespread humanitarian disaster and severe security consequences for the entire region.
The government of Somaliland therefore calls upon the international community, its friends, and neighbours, to support and assist it in finding peaceful solutions to the crisis affecting the civilian population of Sool, whilst at the same time increasing efforts to eliminate terrorism and other illegal incursions in territories belonging to the Republic of Somaliland.
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