Puntland says Somaliland supporting dissident forces

The authorities in the self-declared autonomous region of Puntland have accused the neighbouring self-declared republic of Somaliland of supporting dissident forces, charges dismissed by Somaliland.

Puntland is once again mired in clashes between forces loyal to Col Abdullahi Yusuf Ahmad and those of his rival Jama Ali Jama, both of whom claim to be Puntland's legitimate president.

Abdishakur Mire Adan, the Puntland deputy information minister, told IRIN on Friday that the Somaliland authorities were supporting Jama's forces in order to destabilise Puntland.

"We have evidence that the Dahir Riyaleh [Somaliland president] administration has given both financial and material support to the anti-Puntland forces," Abdishakur said. He also accused the Somaliland authorities of providing Jama's forces with bases inside Somaliland. "We know they [Jama forces] are in Erigavo, Aynabo, and Eil-Afweyn," he said.

Abdishakur accused the Somaliland authorities of "trying to destabilise Puntland using disgruntled elements to further their cause".

However, he warned that this would only lead to instability in the region. "If you set your neighbour's house on fire, it is likely that your house will also burn," he said. He added that Puntland forces were currently deployed in the border area between the two regions and "will respond if attacked from Somaliland".

However, the Somaliland authorities described the accusations as "baseless and without foundation".

Abdullahi Muhammad Duale, the Somaliland information minister, told IRIN that Somaliland "has nothing to do with what is happening in Puntland". He denied that Somaliland had provided any group with "bases or weapons".

Duale asserted that Somaliland was busy with its democratisation process, "which is very costly, and it [Somaliland] doesn't have the means to give anything to anyone".

Somaliland held local government elections last month and will hold parliamentary and presidential elections soon.

"Abdullahi Yusuf [the de facto Puntland leader] is looking for scapegoats and trying to foist his problems on others," Duale added.

Both Puntland and Somaliland claim ownership of the two regions of Sool and Sanaag, a dispute which led to an attack last month on the Somaliland leader, Dahir Riyaleh Kahin, who was visiting the area.

The regions fall geographically within the borders of the former British Somaliland, but most of the clans are associated with Puntland.