The director of a hospital in a disputed city in the Somaliland region says at least 145 people have been killed in more than two months of fighting between anti-government fighters and Somaliland security forces after local elders declared their intention to reunite with Somalia.
Abdimajid Sugulle, with the public hospital in Las-Anod, told The Associated Press on Saturday that more than 1,080 other people have been wounded and over 100,000 families have fled the city of Las-Anod since late December. Most civilians have fled, he said.
The director accused Somaliland forces of destroying the hospital’s laboratory, blood bank and patient ward in mortar attacks. “The Somaliland forces who are positioned outside the town have been shelling civilian residents and medical facilities indiscriminately. No single day passes without shelling and casualties,” he told the AP by phone.
Somaliland’s defense ministry has denied shelling the hospital, and the government has asserted it has a “continuous commitment” to a cease-fire it declared on Feb. 10. “Indiscriminate shelling of civilians is unacceptable and must stop,” the United Nations and international partners warned last month.
Somaliland separated from Somalia three decades ago and seeks international recognition as an independent country. Somaliland and the Somali state of Puntland have disputed Las-Anod for years, but the eastern city has been under Somaliland’s control.
The U.N. mission in Somalia and the U.N. human rights office had said the violence in Las-Anod killed at least 80 people between Dec. 28 and Feb. 28 and more than 450 noncombatants were wounded, including medical personnel. The U.N. has called for respect for medical workers and unhindered humanitarian access.
The conflict in Las-Anod began when an unidentified gunman killed a popular young politician in Somaliland’s opposition party as he left a mosque. Protests followed against Somaliland officials and forces in the city.
Somaliland’s government has blamed the unrest on fighters with “anti-peace groups and terrorism” and alleged that the al-Shabab extremist group, affiliated with al-Qaida, has supported some attacks.