Mogadishu (Caasimada Online) – The Al-Shabab militant group in Somalia has rejected the claims made by the Somaliland administration that its fighters are participating in the ongoing conflict in Laascaanood, the capital of the Sool region.
The conflict, which began on Monday between Somaliland forces and local forces opposing their presence in the city, is now on its fifth day. An estimated 40 people have since lost their lives, and over 150 have been injured.
Somaliland’s claims against Al-Shabab
Somaliland has frequently stated that Laascaanood is under attack by terrorists and members of Al-Shabab, which the local population has previously perceived as a pretext for killing civilians.
In a recent interview with BBC English, Somaliland’s Foreign Minister, Dr. Ise Kayd Mohamud, claimed that they have “evidence and have recorded instances of Al-Shabab militants attacking military bases.”
The Minister further stated that they had apprehended several Al-Shabab militants and other soldiers affiliated with the neighboring Puntland administration fighting in Laascaanood.
Al-Shabab’s statement of denial
However, Al-Shabab has rejected these claims and issued a statement denying any involvement in the conflict. The statement read, “The Al-Shabab Mujahideen group denies the statement made by the self-proclaimed Somaliland administration that Al-Shabab is fighting in Laascaanood.”
The statement added, “Al-Shabab confirms that the statement is baseless and will not accept its name being used as a guise to justify killing innocent civilians, taking their property, and their honor in Laascaanood.”
Al-Shabaab further accused the Hargeysa administration of using these false claims to seek support from the international community to carry out its alleged killing of the Laascaanood population.
Calls for an immediate ceasefire
On Thursday, The United States issued a call to action in response to the escalating conflict in Laascaanood. In an official statement from the Bureau of African Affairs of the US Department of State, the government declared that “the indiscriminate targeting of civilians is unacceptable and must be brought to an end.”
The US Government has called for an immediate cessation of violence in Laascaanood, protection of civilians, and unrestricted access for humanitarian aid. The statement also emphasized the need for a peaceful resolution through dialogue.
Roots of the conflict
The conflict was sparked by a decision made by local leaders, who had been meeting in the city for several days, stating that the region would not be part of Somaliland but instead be under the control of the federal government of Somalia.
The traditional leaders also declared the SSC-Khaatumo regions to be part of the federal government of Somalia and committed to Somali unity.
Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but has not yet been recognized as a separate state. Despite controlling the regions of Sool, Sanag, and Cayn for over 15 years, Somaliland has faced opposition and resentment.
The current crisis was triggered by the assassination of a local youth leader and opposition Waddani Party member, which was blamed on Somaliland. The Somaliland security forces have used force to try to quell the situation, leading to further violence and casualties.