Saturday, June 16, 2012
LAS ANOD — The Somaliland military have seized a strategic territory near the Somalia border following an offensive against an outlawed separatist rebel on Saturday.
The fighting erupted in the early hours of Saturday in the small but strategic town of Tukaraq in Sool region, some 30 kilometers south of the provincial capital Las Anod.
Eyewitnesses in Tukaraq said they heard heavy gunfire from the fighting but there were no casualties on both sides. They confirmed that Somaliland forces were in control of the town and that the militia loyal to Khaatumo State separatist group had fled.
Locals reported that the Somaliland forces passed the town southward and reached the near by village of Yo’da where they captured a pickup truck carrying rebel fighters. It is believed that they have taken a number of fighters into custody .
The group claims that they are fighting for unity with neighboring Somalia and have been engaged a series of hit-and-run attacks against the state military. Khaatumo rebels insist that the regions of Sool, Sanaag and Buhoodle must remain part of sovereign territory of Somalia.
Somaliland disagrees with their claim and the two sides have exchanged regular firefights along the Buhoodle and Tukaraq front lines. Somaliland has extended an offer for peace talks several times and warned it would seize by force all regions till it reaches the border with Somalia if talks fail.
The three regions are also claimed by Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland and the armed SSC separatist group.
It was just last week when Khaatumo rebels captured the town from Puntland militia.
The Somaliland military said they would consolidate their new positions and repel any counter-offensive from any external and internal threat.
Local reports said the Somaliland forces were met by jubilant residents who welcomed them to Tukaraq near the Somalia border.