At least 34 people were killed in clashes between soldiers and anti-government fighters in a disputed town in Somalia’s northern breakaway region of Somaliland on Monday, doctors and officials said.
The region’s government said on Twitter armed men attacked army bases and state offices in Laascaanood early in the morning. It accused unnamed “traditional leaders” there of recruiting the attackers, and said it had thwarted the assault.
There was no immediate comment from any other side in the violence in the town – where the regional government has been battling groups that reject its authority – and no independent confirmation of who started the fighting.
Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 but has not gained widespread international recognition for its independence.
Its government has faced particular opposition in Laascaanood and surrounding areas, where some clan leaders are seeking to rejoin federal Somalia and have accused the Somaliland authorities of failing to tackle insecurity.
At least 34 people were killed and another 40 wounded in the clashes, Mohamed Farah, a doctor at Laascaanood Hospital told Reuters.
At one point, shelling hit the hospital, said a second doctor who asked not to be named. “The wounded have now been removed from this hospital,” the doctor added.
The clashes in Laascaanood, the administrative centre of Sool region, came a day after a committee of local leaders, religious scholars and civil society groups said in a statement they did not recognise the Somaliland administration.
The group said it represented the interests of people in the regions of Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn (SSC).
“We have decided that the Federal Republic of Somalia will administer the (SSC) regions until federalization of Somali territory is completed,” the committee said.
Ahmed Elmi Osman Karaash, vice president of the neighbouring semi-autonomous region of Puntland said his region supported the committee’s resolutions. Puntland has also claimed the town for itself in the past.