Representatives from the UAE, US, UK, Qatar, Somalia and Turkey met on Tuesday and expressed concern at the conflict brewing in Somalia’s northern breakaway region of Somaliland, Washington said.

At least 34 people were killed and 40 wounded in clashes between soldiers and anti-government fighters in the town of Laascaanood earlier this month.

“The partners expressed concern about the ongoing conflict … and called on all parties to adhere to the ceasefire, de-escalate, allow unhindered humanitarian access and engage in constructive and peaceful dialogue.” the US State Department said.

Somalia’s national security adviser Hussein Sheikh-Ali tweeted to say the Washington gathering was “a very productive meeting.”
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The region’s government said on Twitter that armed men attacked army bases and state offices in Laascaanood early on February 6. It accused unnamed “traditional leaders” of recruiting the attackers and said it had thwarted the assault, just the latest clashes between the administration and groups that reject its authority.

Its government has faced particular opposition in Laascaanood and surrounding areas, where some clan leaders are seeking to rejoin federal Somalia and have accused the Somaliland authorities of failing to tackle insecurity.

Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 but has not gained widespread international recognition for its independence.

The clashes in Laascaanood, the administrative centre of Sool region, came a day after a committee of local leaders, religious scholars and civil society groups said they did not recognise the Somaliland administration.

The group said it represented the interests of people in the regions of Sool, Sanaag, and Cayn (SSC).

“We have decided that the Federal Republic of Somalia will administer the regions until federalisation of Somali territory is completed,” the committee said.

Ahmed Elmi Karaash, vice president of the neighbouring semi-autonomous region of Puntland, said his region supported the committee’s resolutions. Puntland has also claimed the town for itself in the past.

The statement came as the US also stepped up military assistance to Mogadishu to fight Al Shabab.

Sixty-one tons of weapons and ammunition arrived Tuesday in the Somali capital, as the country sees success in battling what the US calls “the largest and most deadly Al Qaida network in the world.”

Somali forces have recaptured dozens of communities held by Al Shabab in a major offensive launched in August.

The participants of the international meeting expressed concern about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Somalia caused by the worst drought on record.

While food security experts recently said that six million people are at risk from the drought, they no longer expect the country to face famine.

The latest assessment released Tuesday by the UN and partner organisations notes “very high mortality rates” in the worst-affected populations which include people who have fled to Mogadishu and the south-western city of Baidoa.

The new food security assessment says nearly 500,000 children in Somalia are likely to be severely malnourished this year.

The extent of the disaster depends, however, on the extent of rain in the coming weeks and the ability of the international community to mobilise aid.

Representatives of the six countries agreed to meet again within three months.

Source The National News