Heavy fighting broke out early Tuesday in a disputed part of Sool region, leaving at least four people dead, a security official told VOA.
The fighting between Somaliland and Puntland erupted outside the village of Tukaraq. It lies between the main towns of Las Anod in Somaliland – a breakaway Somali state and self-declared republic – and Garowe in Puntland.
The office of Puntland’s president, Abdiweli Mohamed Ali, issued a statement accusing Somaliland of launching an “unprovoked” attack on its territory.
Somaliland officials accused Puntland of attacking their positions, local media report.
Both sides reported casualties including deaths, but neither side provided any figures to confirm those provided by the security official.
The official, who is not being named because he is not authorized to speak with journalists, described “intense” fighting with heavy weaponry.
Both Puntland and Somaliland reportedly have well-armed forces, and troops have massed in the disputed area in recent weeks. Michael Keating, the United Nations’ special representative for Somalia, visited Puntland and Somaliland over the weekend and urged de-escalation.
Somaliland forces captured Tukaraq village in January after a surprise attack. At the time, Somaliland military officials said their forces conducted an operation “within our own borders.” Puntland leaders, meanwhile, said Somaliland was “occupying” parts of its own territories and vowed publicly to “retake” the land.
Territorial disputes in the region go back to the colonial era, when Britain colonized Somaliland and Italy colonized the rest of Somalia. The people in Sool region are represented in both the Somaliland and Puntland administrations.
Somaliland announced its secession from the rest of Somalia in 1991, but has not been recognized as an independent state.
Observers worry that continued fighting will aggravate humanitarian concerns in a region prone to recurrent droughts.