Hargeisa, Somalia – At least two people were killed in fighting between rival northern Somali regions, officials in one of the enclaves, Somaliland, said on Saturday.
Somaliland rural development minister Fuad Aden Adde said two of his fighters were killed on Friday by forces of the rival Puntland zone in Tifafle village, 10km north of the town of Las Anod, a town claimed by both regions.
Adde said four Somaliland people including his brother Hussein Aden Adde, a clan leader, were taken prisoner.
Residents in the area told reporters two Puntland fighters were also killed. There was no immediate confirmation of the report.
The neighbours have fought sporadic clashes for years over the ownership of several eastern regions of Somaliland that Puntland’s leaders claim as their own on the basis of ethnicity.
United Nations development and relief organisations have expressed concern at growing tension between the two regions and say any conflict could destabilise talks taking place in Kenya between Somali warlords aimed at bringing peace to Somalia as a whole.
A former British protectorate, Somaliland split unilaterally from Somalia in 1991 after a long independence struggle, taking advantage of the chaos that followed the fall of Somali dictator Mohamed Siad Barre that same year.
The independence of the normally peaceful enclave has never been recognised by the international community, something which rankles with many ordinary people and with the government.
Puntland, currently ruled by Ethiopian-backed military strongman Abdullahi Yusuf, broke away from Somalia in 1998 to escape the militia anarchy of southern and central Somalia.
There was no immediate comment on the clashes from Puntland leaders, who are at the talks in Kenya. Somaliland leaders are not involved in the peace gathering, saying they have no intention of reuniting Somaliland with the rest of Somalia.
Somaliland information minister Abdullahi Mohamed Du’ale urged the United Nations, African Union, European Union and Arab League to use their influence to stabilise the situation.
“Forces loyal to Abdullahi Yusuf have committed naked aggression… Somaliland will be patient no longer,” he said.