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Tension rising in disputed northern regions

Tension is rising in Sool and Sanaag regions of the self-declared republic of Somaliland, to which both Somaliland and the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland have laid claim, a local journalist told IRIN on Monday.

Tension has been rising in the area since Somaliland elders came to the Sool regional capital, Las Anood, he said. The elders were in Las Anood to reconcile two feuding clans in the area.

The two regions fall geographically within the borders of pre-independence British Somaliland, but most of the main clans inhabiting them are associated with Puntland. These are the Warsangeli and the Dhulbahante, which, along with Majerteen - the main clan in Puntland - form the Harti clan of the Darood.

At extraordinary cabinet meeting on 23 November, called by Puntland leader Colonel Abdullahi Yusuf, it was decided to send a high level delegation to the two regions, Abdishakuur Mire Adan, the Puntland deputy information minister, told IRIN, on Monday. Yusuf, who was attending the Somali reconciliation conference currently underway in Eldoret, Kenya, left for Puntland on 21 November.

Abdishakuur said it was normal for a Puntland government delegation to visit the area "since both regions are part and parcel of Puntland. I don't see any reason why Puntland officials visiting Sool and Sanag should cause any tension with anybody. The people in these regions consider themselves as part of Puntland."

Other sources in Puntland, however, told IRIN that the authorities in Puntland were sending the delegation "in order to counter a perceived shift by some area elders to the Somaliland side". "There are fears that some prominent elders, particularly in Sool, are trying to shift the balance in favour of Somaliland," they said.

Abdishakur denied any mobilisation of troops by the Puntland authorities in the area. "There is no reason for any mobilisation on our part," he said.

Abdishakur also told IRIN that the Puntland cabinet, which is currently based in the Bosaso, the region's commercial capital, would relocate to Garowe, the administrative capital. The Puntland administration of Col Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad has been operating from Bosaso ever since he captured the town from his rival, Jama Ali Jama, in May.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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