MOGADISHU, Somalia – A tension between Somalia’s semi-autonomous region of Puntland and its neighboring breakaway republic of Somaliland has been building up in Sanaag region, Somalia’s second largest region.
The tension has escalated on Sunday as the two neighboring states started deploying armed forces into Hadaftimo town in the region.
The two states are engaged in a perilous standoff over long-contested areas in the region after repeated deadly clashes since 2018.
Both sides are using incendiary rhetoric, are massing forces in the contested areas, according to journalist Abdiqani Hassan.
Hassan says the two neighboring states had dispatched heavily armed soldiers into Hadaftimo town.
He says Puntland also withdrew its army forces from Galgala mountains where they have been fighting against al Qaeda linked Al Shabaab and deployed them into Sanaag region.
Residents in the town fear the current hostilities could escalate into a full-scale war that will have political, economic and security impact on both Puntland and Somaliland.
The escalation could provoke enormous displacement and create space for the Islamist Al-Shabaab insurgency and a small local Islamic State branch.
A longstanding military standoff between Somaliland and Puntland over the disputed Sanaag region is in grave danger of escalating.
It would likely herald a protracted conflict with devastating consequences for northern Somalia and the potential to fuel further instability across Somalia.
Somaliland and Puntland have enjoyed relative peace and stability for nearly three decades as war plagued the rest of Somalia.
Somaliland declared itself independent from Somalia in 1991 and operates as an independent state but has not won international recognition.
Reporting by Abdirisak Mohamud Tuuryare from Mogadishu, Somalia