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100 Are Reported Killed In Violence in Somalia

Breakaway Region Rejects New Leader

By Hussein Ali Nur
Reuters
Sunday, October 31, 2004; Page A24

HARGEYSA, Somalia, Oct. 30 -- About 100 people were reported killed on Saturday in fighting between Puntland and the rival Somali territory of Somaliland. The hostilities erupted after Puntland's leader was elected president in a new effort to reunite Somalia under a national government.

Abdullahi Yusuf has pledged to work peacefully with breakaway Somaliland as he tries to restore order to Somalia, which descended into anarchy in 1991 following the overthrow of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

But his election on Oct. 10 alarmed Somaliland, which declared full independence from Somalia in 1991. Many people in Somaliland view Yusuf as a serious foe because he was the leader of Puntland, a neighboring autonomous territory that has land disputes with Somaliland.

Somaliland authorities warned Yusuf on Oct. 12 against any attempted aggression and said they were on alert against any move to bring Somaliland back into Somalia.

"Full mobilization of our soldiers is going on and will continue until Abdullahi Yusuf's forces leave our territory," a spokesman for the Somaliland president said on Saturday, adding that fighting had stopped because of heavy rains.

A spokesman for Somaliland's Defense Office said the death toll from the fighting, which erupted on Friday at the village of Adi-Addeye, about 20 miles north of Las Anod, had risen to 109.

It was not immediately clear whether that figure referred to combat casualties or civilians or both. The spokesman said nine Somaliland soldiers were killed in the fighting.

Puntland and Somaliland have fought sporadic clashes for years over the ownership of several eastern areas of Somaliland claimed by Puntland's leaders on the basis of ethnicity. Las Anod has been a flash point during previous fighting.

Matt Bryden, a senior analyst with the policy research organization International Crisis Group, said Yusuf's elevation to the presidency had heightened tensions between the two territories. "It is probably going to get worse unless dialogue is started," he said.

Yusuf was elected head of state by Somali lawmakers after two years of intermittent peace talks, held in Kenya because of insecurity at home. He has not yet been able to return to Somalia because of the continued chaos there, and has asked the African Union to send 20,000 peacekeepers to disarm the militias that control much of the failed state.

"The president is very much concerned about the unfortunate clashes that happened yesterday which caused heavy losses of life and property," the head of Somalia's presidential press service, Yusuf Mohamed Ismail, told reporters in Nairobi.

Ismail said Yusuf wanted an international fact-finding mission to establish the cause of the fighting and facilitate a cease-fire.

Yusuf said in a letter sent to neighboring states and the United Nations on Friday that Puntland had told him Somaliland was waging "an all-out war."


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