Somaliland troops and separatists clash, five killed

Reuters News
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Posted: Apr 01, 2012 12:26 PM

HARGEISA (Reuters) - At least four Somaliland troops and one rebel fighter loyal to the breakaway enclave's secessionists were killed during clashes on Sunday, both sides said.

The fighting first erupted in January after the leaders of the northern regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn decided to band together into a new state called Khaatumo and declared they wanted to be an independent region within Somalia.

Somaliland's troops have since clashed with militia fighters loyal to Khaatumo, with reports of dozens of casualties.

Somaliland is an internationally unrecognized state that declared independence from Somalia in 1991.

The newly declared Khaatumo state is near the border with Ethiopia and is a disputed area that Somaliland seized from Puntland in 2007, though relations between the two territories have improved since.

"Militia loyal to anti-Somaliland groups in Buhodle and South Sool simultaneously began (fighting) in the early hours of dawn. The army repulsed attacks on both fronts," said Osman Abdillahi, a spokesman for Somaliland's defense ministry.

Abdillahi said four Somaliland government soldiers were killed and 10 injured during the fighting. Mohamed Yousouf, a spokesman for the secessionists, said one of their fighters was killed and two were injured.

(Reporting by Hussein Ali Nur and Mark Anderson; Editing by Duncan Miriri and Karolina Tagaris)