Somaliland forces seize disputed town from Somalia

Several soldiers and civilians were reportedly killed in the fighting, although an exact death toll has not yet been announced

NAIROBI (AA) – Somaliland forces on Thursday captured the disputed border town of Saah Dheer following heavy fighting with Somali forces.

"Our forces are now in control of Saah Dheer," Ahmed Suleiman Duhul, a Somaliland government spokesman, told Anadolu Agency in a telephone interview.

"Somali forces retreated following the fighting," he said.

"Saah Dheer has always been a part of Somaliland," he added. "We will protect what is ours."

Several soldiers and civilians were reportedly killed in the fighting, although an exact death toll has not yet been disclosed by either side.

"The invading Somaliland forces have killed innocent civilians, children and women," Somali Defense Ministry spokesman Mohamed Yusuf told AA.

"We strongly condemn this act perpetrated by the secessionist forces," he added, without saying what Mogadishu's next move would be.

Saah Dheer was the headquarters of the Khatumo administration, which recently gained semi-autonomous status in line with Somalia's federal constitution.

Fighting erupted on the day that the Khatumo region's new president, Ali Ghalaydh, was expected to be inaugurated.

Dignitaries from other parts of Somalia and the Somali diaspora had arrived for the inauguration ceremony.

A number of dignitaries – including some Somali MPs – were reportedly caught up in the fighting.

Somaliland and Somalia emerged as one country in 1961 after achieving independence from Britain and Italy respectively.

But Somaliland broke away from the rest of the country in 1991 following the ouster of President Siad Barre and the outbreak of civil war.

Somalia, however, has consistently refused to recognize Somaliland's independence.

Until now, Somaliland has enjoyed relative peace – compared to Somalia, which has remained in the grip of violence since 1991.

Turkey, meanwhile, has sponsored three rounds of peace talks in an effort to reconcile the two sides.

By Yassin Juma

englishnews@aa.com.tr

www.aa.com.tr/en

Copyright © 2014 Anadolu Agency