Analysis: Explosions raise fears over Somaliland stability
HAIRGEISA, 29 January 2010 (IRIN) - The latest bomb explosion in Somalia's self-declared independent republic of Somaliland raises concerns over the lack of government presence in the Las-anod area, says an analyst.
Among those injured in the blast, which killed one person and injured five on 28 January, was the governor of Sool region, Askar Farah Hussein, who was admitted to a hospital in the town of Las-anod.
Commenting on the bombings that have hit the region since October 2009, Somaliland President Dahir Rayale Kahin told reporters: "I have heard the opposition accusing the government of being behind the bombs; this is unfortunate, the government is investigating, but we need to know that the enemy wants [to stage] more attacks against Somaliland..."
The latest incident brings to five the bombings since October 2009 in Las-anod, capital of a region in contention between Somaliland and Puntland. Las-anod is part of Sool and Sanag region, to which the governments of Somaliland and Puntland both lay claim.
According to EJ Hogendoorn, the International Crisis Group's Horn of Africa Project Director, the Somaliland government is strong enough to get the situation under control in Las-anod "but the problem is that there is minimal government presence in the area".
"The area remains largely unadministered by both Puntland and Somaliland," Hogendoorn said, adding that the region is inhabited mainly by the Dhulbahante clan, which has family ties to the ruling Harti clan in Puntland.
"The Sool and Sanag region is disputed by both Puntland and Somaliland for several reasons; the Dhulbahante are unhappy with both Puntland and Somaliland, and Islamist radicals have taken advantage of this to try to cause instability in the area," Hogendoorn said. "Moreover, it is likely that there are significant oil deposits in Sool and Sanag, so both governments lay claim to the region."
Hogendoorn said it appeared the violence was inspired by Islamist elements among the Dhulbahante that are sympathetic to Al-Shabab, the main Islamist group that has been waging war against the government in Somalia.
"The interest of these Islamist elements is to foment instability. What is clear is that they have links with Al-Shabab in south and central Somalia," he said. "There is a similar dynamic going in Puntland, where the Islamist radicals have also targeted government officials in the past."
However, Hogendoorn said analysts did not have any evidence that the bombings in Las-anod were orchestrated by Al-Shabab.
"There are a lot of Islamist groups in the whole of Somalia; it is difficult to speculate whether or not Al-Shabab is behind the latest incidents," he said. "The best course of action would be for the Somaliland government to improve security in and around its installations in Las-anod and to have more presence on the ground."
Police Commissioner Mohamed Saqadhi Dubad told IRIN that 23 arrests had been made in relation to the incidents and that investigations were ongoing to establish those behind the attacks.
"We consider the suspects [to be] coming from our enemy who don't like our stability; of course they are external enemies," Dubad said, declining to give any names.
On 26 January 2010, Dubad said, reports were made to police that a suspect package had been seen in Las-anod. The police collected the package but it turned out to be a remote-controlled bomb and it went off, killing two soldiers, Dubad said.
On 14 January, unknown armed men shot dead the Las-anod police commissioner minutes after he left a mosque.
Mohamed Abdi Dhimbil, the deputy governor of Sool, said: "A few days ago, unknown people threw hand grenades at a police station in the south, injuring three policemen."
In late October 2009, an army commander and another official were killed following a bomb explosion.
Dubad said: "Most of the incidents involved remote-controlled bombs, but more than 23 suspects, including officials from Somaliland, have been arrested and they will be on trial soon.
"We captured some explosive material in Hargeisa after a woman in the area notified us that a man had placed what looked like explosive elements on the road near Hawadle Mosque," Dubad said. "One man was arrested over the incident."
The bombings have caused fear and alarm among the public.
"Nowadays Somaliland security is fragile because you can see everywhere there are incidents taking place; for this reason we consider the government could be losing control of national security and we are worried," said Mohamed Farah Qabile, a member of the Lower House of Parliament from the Kulmiye opposition party.
Mohamed Hashi Elmi, a former minister of commerce, said the government should explain to people who was responsible for the explosions.
On 17 January, Vice-President Ahmed Yusuf Yasin announced that national security would be given “the highest priority” in 2010.
Police commissioner Dubad said security for international aid staff would also be improved to facilitate access to many parts of Somaliland.
"We are improving security measures for international staff of aid organizations … because our enemy is targeting international aid workers as well as other foreign citizens who are helping our people in sectors such as education and health," Dubad said.
He added that police would provide security for aid workers undertaking missions in various parts of the country, "even in their homes”.
Theme(s): (IRIN) Conflict, (IRIN) Early Warning
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