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Somaliland forces withdraw from town also claimed by Puntland

Somaliland forces withdraw from town also claimed by Puntland
FILE: Somaliland soldier in the regional capital Hargeisa, 18th May 2016   -  
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Government forces from the breakaway Somali region of Somaliland have withdrawn from a disputed town after several days of deadly violence against authorities, security sources said on Thursday.

Demonstrations in the locality of Las Anod, located about 500 kilometres east of the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa, had degenerated into violence last week.

Opposition parties and human rights organizations have accused government forces of killing several protesters.

Las Anod is claimed by Somaliland and Puntland, two regions which share a long and disputed border.

Both have declared themselves autonomous from the internationally recognised government in Mogadishu.

The demonstrators in the town had been protesting against the assassination of a politician by armed men.

Somaliland officials said people were killed in the clashes between protesters and its police, but did not give a toll.

"To preserve the security situation, the stability of the district and the well-being of the civilian population, the military leaders have ordered their forces to return to their camps so that the situation can return to normal," the mayor of the city, Abdirahin Ali Ismail, said.

Somaliland military officials have confirmed the withdrawal of troops from the city "to avoid further escalation" while warning that they will not let the region's stability be threatened.

Somaliland President Muse Bihi said on Wednesday that an investigation would be conducted as soon as order returns to the town.

"This is a Somaliland problem, and we take responsibility for what happened, as a government and people, and we will find a solution," he said.

Somaliland is ready to defend its sovereignty after Puntland "declared war", he added.

Somaliland declared independence in 1991 but the former British territory is not recognised by the international community.

Its 4.5 million people have remained poor and isolated from much of the world. But Somaliland has enjoyed relative stability whilst Somalia has been ravaged by decades of civil war and Islamist insurgency.

However, both are being ravaged by drought. The UN's food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) tweeted that over a million people have been made homeless so far.

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