HARGEISA, 10 February 2011 (IRIN) – More than 3,000 people have been displaced from settlements in Somaliland’s eastern region of Toghdeer following a five-hour-long battle on 7 February between the Somaliland National Army and clans loyal to the Sool, Sanag and Cayn (SSC) milita group.
A long-standing dispute exists over the territories of Cayn, Sool and Sanag, with both the self-declared republic of Somailiand, in northwestern Somalia, and the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland in the northeast claiming them. SSC are fighting to remain part of the original state of Somalia.
Abdullahi Yusuf Koreey, an elder from the area, told IRIN that more than 500 families (3,000 people) were displaced from the village of Hagoogane. “Most are pastoralists.”
He said the area had been suffering from severe water shortages before the fighting. “Many of the families have gone to areas with little or no water points. If their lives were difficult before it is 10 times worse now,” said Koreey.
“We know about 100 families were displaced to Buhotle District from Kalshale, Maygagle and Hagoogane villages [north of Buhotle],” said Faisal Jama, an independent journalist in Las-anod, the main town in the SSC region.
A local journalist told IRIN the fighting was over water and land.
He said many of those displaced were in areas difficult to access. “They are nowhere where aid agencies can access them.”
Over 30 killed
Ahmed H Abdillahi Roraye, director-general of the resettlement and refugees department of Somaliland’s ministry of interior, told IRIN that another 120 families had been displaced to Burao, capital of the Toghdeer region.
“We are now sending an assessment team to evaluate the number of displaced in the area,” he said.
According to journalists in the area, the 7 February clashes killed at least 32 and injured nearly 60 people. Gen Nuh Tani, Somaliland’s army chief, told the media the same day that at least four of his soldiers were killed in the conflict.
“According to information we have received from the Somali Red Crescent in Galka’ayo [south-central Somalia], 21 people were taken to hospital, but two of them died on the way,” said an official from Somaliland’s Red Crescent who requested anonymity.
Another 31 people have been hospitalized in Burao, according to army sources.
Aid workers say continued clashes will increase the suffering of people already dealing with severe drought. “This will make things worse for people who were also suffering the worst drought they have ever experienced,” the Somali Red Crescent source said. “And we are worried that if the conflict continues it will be difficult to reach people in the area.”