Ceasefire in Laascaanood shattered, intense battle ongoing

Laascaanood (Caasimada Online) – The fragile ceasefire in Laascaanood, in northern Somalia, was shattered on Saturday, mere hours after its declaration by the Somaliland authorities following five days of heavy fighting.

Reports indicate that an intense battle is currently underway between the forces of Somaliland and the local forces, with both sides utilizing various weapons, resulting in casualties and injuries.

The Somaliland government has accused the SSC-Khatumo forces of launching an attack on its military base on the outskirts of Laascaanood, which prompted a defensive response from the Somaliland military. 

The Ministry of Internal Affairs of Somaliland released a statement that “terrorist elements attacked the military base” and that the military successfully defended itself and regained control of the situation.

However, traditional elders in the region dispute this account, asserting that the Somaliland forces initiated the conflict by invading the area and that peace can only be restored if the Somaliland troops withdraw.

Abdirisakh Mohamed Hassan, the spokesperson for the 33-member committee coordinating the Laacaanod meeting, accused the Somaliland government of exploiting the ceasefire as a guise for launching new assaults.

The conflict in Laascaanood was sparked by the assassination of a local youth leader and opposition Waddani Party member in late December, which was attributed to Somaliland, leading to a rise in violence and casualties. 

The battle between Somaliland forces and militiamen has resulted in at least 58 fatalities and the injury of over 150 individuals, with reports of homes and health centers being shelled during the conflict.

Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991 but has yet to receive widespread international recognition for its status. It has faced opposition from some clan elders in disputed areas along its border with Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland state.

In response to the escalating crisis in Laascaanood, The Bureau of African Affairs of the US Department of State released an official statement declaring that the “indiscriminate targeting of civilians is intolerable and must be brought to a halt.” 

The US government has called for an immediate cessation of violence in Laascaanood, protection of civilians, unrestricted access for humanitarian aid, and a peaceful resolution through dialogue.