Dozens Killed in Brutal Crackdown by Separatist Somaliland Government in the Sool region

03.01.2022: Laascaanood, Sool

Laascaanood and the regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) are home to the legendary dervish and anti-colonial warriors of Somalia. The flag of the self-declared Khaatumo State of Somalia contains a Dervish warrior on his horse. However, much like the Dervish State in the 1900s receive no recognition, the Khaatumo State of Somalia is yet to any receive recognition from the Federal Government in Mogadishu.

For over a century now, it seems as though the people of the SSC region have been stuck in a cycle of continues struggle for their right to self-determine their future. From the British Empire to the current self-declared separatist Somaliland Government in Hargeisa, the people in the region continue to face oppression.

Recent events in the administrative capital of Sool, Laascaanood have sparked another uproar in the town which resulted in civilians protesting and waving the flag of the Somali Republic as well as Khaatumo State. Somaliland Security forces in the town used lethal force to disperse the crowds as dozens were killed and more arrested with telecommunications and internet services shut off.

Unrest in the city continues on for its second week as Hargeisa sent reinforcements from other regions of the self-declared Somaliland region in Northern Somalia to continue the suppression of protesters.

So what has sparked the unrest?

Continued Assassinations

There have been reports of over hundred assassinations in the town of Laascaanood since 2009 according to local statistics with many of the murders remaining unaccounted for. Many of those killed in these assassinations tend to be civil leaders, politicians and elders.

Let’s take look at high profile assassinations that have taken in the region since 2020 alone.

In March 2020, the Head of the Courts in Sool, Hassan Sheikh was killed when a bomb was attached to his vehicle. Within the same month, the head of intelligence in Sool was killed while he travelled home.

In July 2021, the Head of the Sool Electoral Commission Abdullahi Laba-Go’le was killed as he entered his home. The following month, local MP and Chairman of the Waddani Party in Sool, Abdirizak Ahmed Elmi ‘Cardoofe’ was killed as he entered his home in Laascaanood.

In March 2022, another local MP Sakariye Garabyar survived an assassination attempt, sustaining injuries. Within the same month again, the Chairman of the Sool Contractual Committee Mohamed Abdullahi Farah was killed by unidentified gunmen in the centre of Laascaanood.

In May 2022, former Mayor of Laascaanood Abdiaziz Hussein narrowly escaped an attempt on his life. Only a few weeks later, former local MP and Chairman of the UCID Party in Sool, Maxamed Aflahar was killed as he entered his home.

The most recent in December 2022, an official in the Sool Waddani Party, Abdifatah Abdullahi Hadraawi was murdered in the city which ultimately sparked the current unrest.

The extensive list of murders and attempted murders remain unaccounted for as the Somaliland authorities are yet to sentence anyone for the crimes.

Indeed, there have been dozens of assassinations in Laascaanood between 2010 and 2019. If we take a look at 2010 alone:

16/01/2010: Farah Abdi (Suxufi) was killed. He was senior member of the Laascaanood administration officials (Unsolved).

26/06/2010: Chief Husen Dalqaf (Gadhcase) was killed (Unsolved).

08/07/2010: Saleeban Dheere – a respected elder that built multiple educational institutions (Unsolved).

These are just some of the killings in 2010, let alone the dozens of killings that occurred all the other years since.

So why are many blaming the separatist government in Hargeisa?

The reality is that once Somaliland overran the region in 2007, it declared itself the ruling authority in the region and pledged to provide security to citizens under this new administration. Authorities in Hargeisa deployed dozens of police and military units to the region to consolidate power and deter Puntland from attempting to regain control.

Nevertheless, despite the large amounts of security personnel deployed by Hargeisa, assassinations in the town began to skyrocket as varies individuals were targeted from Laascaanood Councillors to local MPs and innocent civilians. Despite calls from clan elders and civil society in the region calling for the Somaliland regime in Hargeisa to conduct open investigations and arrest the contract killers behind the widespread deaths, there has been very little success from security forces.

Ultimately, many in the SSC region believe that Somaliland authorities are at the minimum turning a blind-eye to the deaths and unrest in the town. Many have questioned how security forces that are in every corner of Laascaanood and the Sool region are unable to identify a roaming gang shooting and killing public figures across the administrative capital so freely.

What has Hargeisa said about the assassinations?

Speaking to the media on Tuesday, the President of the Separatist Somaliland Government, Muse Bihi claimed that only 40 individuals were killed in Laascaanood between 2009 and 2022. Of the 40, 32 are currently cases being handled by authorities with 26 cases seeing individuals being sentenced.

“If we look at it another way” said President Bihi, 24 were officials that were affiliated or supported the separatist Somaliland Government. He went on further to claim that 16 on the individuals killed were innocent civilians that were killed “for supporting the independence of Somaliland”.

Irrespective of which side one you are on, the reality is that Somaliland’s occupation of the region since 2007 has failed to maintain any form of security or stability. The residence of the region see Hargeisa as an oppressive regime that is hell-bent on forcing the SSC region to secede from the rest of the Somali Republic. Additionally, many in the region see Hargeisa as enabling and supporting the killings that are ongoing under Somaliland’s watch.

There is a mistrust between the people of the SSC and Hargeisa which has only been embedded deeper into the hearts and minds of locals following the recent protests and killings by security forces.

What is happening in Laascaanood Now?

On the 26th of December 2022, rising politician Abdifatah Abdullahi Hadraawi was shot and killed as he left a masjid in the city following evening prayers, joining the many local officials that have been killed by unidentified assassins.

Hadraawi was an official in the opposition Waddani Party in the Sool region. In fact, he was on a list of Somaliland Regional House of Representatives candidates for the Waddani Party according to party’s Presidential Candidate, Abdirahman Irro.

The opposition blamed the Bihi government of having played a role. Conversely, Bihi blamed the killing on “enemies of Somaliland”.

The latest killing sparked protests in the city which resulted in dozens of people ranging from children to elderly folk coming on to the streets to protest the unlawful killing of Hadraawi and the dozens before him. Many were infuriated by the nonchalant response from the Somaliland authorities to the deteriorating security situation.

Aside from the killings, many young Somalis in the city showcased the Cawale flag, the flag of the Somali Republic and a symbol that represents Somali unity. For these Somalis, the plight for Somali unity and prosperity has been at the forefront of their continued agenda as they protest against a separatist government that advocates for the separation of what is left of the Somali nation. A plight that has been on-going since the first British incursion in the 1880s.

Nevertheless, it would be the brutal response from the Somaliland authorities which would resulted in the uproar we are witnessing in the city today.

Security forces loyal to Hargeisa began firing live bullets at unarmed civilians that were throwing rocks resulting in many being injured and some being killed. Within the first 32 hours, Somaliland security forces killed five people in the city indiscriminately. Since then, British-trained Rapid Response Unit (RRU) and other Somaliland security forces were deployed to the town to quell protestors which resulted in many more innocent unarmed civilians being killed by these soldiers.

One of the most heinous killings was the assassination of Sheikh Bidde Farah Caalim who was killed as he spoke to masses at a masjid in Laascaanood by Somaliland security forces.

Within days, the Somaliland President ordered all telecommunications and electricity companies to cease services in the city resulting in major disruption for many residents. Somaliland security forces raided the headquarters of TeleSOM and other telecommunications companies in the city.

Many residents rely on internet banking and money transfer services to purchase basic necessities. Hospitals are unable to provide basic care as electricity has been cut in the city. In fact, reports emerging indicate that most of the victims have not even been buried yet and remain in the morgue.

There have been dozens of arrests, with current reports indicating that nearly 180 people are currently held due to the protests in the city. Some individuals were students in Hargeisa that spoke out against violence in Laascaanood by security forces. The Hargeisa regime is using any method possible to silence dissent.

Since the unrest, major businesses and other establishments have been closed. However, there have been reports of Somaliland forces demanding local businesses to open to no avail. Unconfirmed reports indicate two business owners were killed by Somaliland forces during these altercations.

What do the People of Laascaanood want?

In response to the recent clashes and oppressive measures by Somaliland, a number of officials in the Somaliland government from the Sool region have resigned in protest to recent actions including local officials and security personnel.

We have also seen the Laascaanood football team withdrawing from local tournaments in Hargeisa in protest of the extrajudicial killings by Somaliland forces.

Within days of the violence, religious and clan elders met across masjids in Laascaanood and urged locals to defend themselves against the brute force of Somaliland which had killed dozens already. In response, Somaliland forces raided Masjids which resulted in the death of Sheikh Caalim.

All 13 regional elders including the previously pro-Somaliland Garaad Jama’ Garaad Ismail have agreed that Somaliland forces must leave the town and region for there to be any peace in the region.

Speaking to Horufadhi Media, spokesman for the Laascaanood Protesters, Adan Jamac Oogle said that the only request protesters have is for Somaliland forces and officials to leave the city immediately.

What Next?

The Puntland State President, Said Abdullahi Deni recently spoke at a press conference in Garowe in which he declared that Puntland was ready to support the people of the SSC against what he described as “Somaliland aggression”. Deni continued that his FMS was both “ready politically and militarily” to defend the region. In response, Somaliland President Muse Bihi taunted the Puntland leader, implying that “whatever happens” as a result of the conflict would be detrimental to Puntland. Bihi further elaborated that the separatist Somaliland Government in Hargeisa was ready to “defend its borders”.

The heated exchanges signal renewed increased tensions between the two regional states could resulted in more clashes.

What About Khaatumo?

To the dismay of the SSC people, Deni declared the regions part of the Puntland State rather than it being an independent region called Khaatumo.

Khaatumo State has been vehemently campaigning for recognition from the Federal Government of Somalia to become a Federal Member State (FMS) with equivalent status to Puntland and other FMSs in Somalia. Recent conferences held in Mogadishu and Jijiga have called for support and recognition however the Federal Government has remained silent on the matter.

Both Puntland and Somaliland do not want to see the region declared a FMS and work together to ensure that remains the case. Nevertheless, the regional states both claim jurisdiction over the regions of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn, having fought numerous battles over the regions in recent decades.

It seems as though there are only to avenues forward:

  • Mogadishu recognises Khaatumo as a FMS – this is the least likely outcome as Villa Somalia does not want to enrage Garowe or Hargeisa
  • Self-determination via any means necessary which includes taking up arms against any physical oppression.

Ultimately, the fate of Sool, Sanaag and Cayn continues to be blocked by hurdles set by fellow Somalis. The future of the SSC region now solely lies in the hands of the people.

For more on Somalia, follow Suldan Mohamed and HORUMAR on Twitter.

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