MOGADISHU, Somalia – Somalia’s semi-autonomous state of Puntland has kindly welcomed 800 soldiers defected from the self-declared state of Somaliland.
The defection comes after a Somaliland military commander, identified as Hayle Haji has refused to launch an attack on Puntland city of Qardho where defected somaliland militry is staioned.
Puntland Minister of Security, Abdisamad Mohamed Galan and other senior officials welcomed the soldiers, who renegade from Somaliland in Bali Busle area, in the disputed region of Sanag.
Haji says he and his 800 soldiers had decided to surrender to the authorities of Puntland.
The move comes just a week after six people were killed when Somaliland troops launched an ambush attack on a vehicle carrying Minister of Education of Puntland in the region.
The tension between the two neighboring states has been building up in Sanaag region, Somalia’s second largest region.
The tension has escalated last month 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, sources said.
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.