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Violent clashes in Somaliland leave 20 dead

At least 20 people are reported to have been killed in Somalia’s breakaway region of Somaliland.

The deaths occurred during several days of clashes between anti-government protesters and security forces.

For more than a week, police and the military have been battling the protesters in Laascaanood, a town in Somaliland’s east, which is disputed between Somaliland and neighboring Puntland, one of Somalia’s semi-autonomous regions.

A doctor at Laascaanood Hospital, a public facility in Laascaanood, told Reuters at least 20 people had been killed and dozens injured. He said he had seen the bodies of victims brought into the facility.

Protesters are demanding that Somaliland cede control of the town to Puntland and also accuse security forces of failing to end insecurity in the town.

A police spokesman did not immediately respond to a call from Reuters requesting comment.

A recent Reuters report said Somaliland broke away from Somalia in 1991 but has not gained widespread international recognition for its independence.

The region has been mostly peaceful while Somalia has grappled with three decades of civil war.

Puntland’s Vice-President, Ahmed Karash, accused the security forces of violence .

“What is being done by the Somaliland army is a massacre of civilians,” he told Reuters.

Somaliland’s Minister of Information, Salebaan Ali Koore, had appealed to the protesters in a statement on Saturday to stop their demonstrations and begin negotiations with the government.

Writing by Fany Olumoye; Editing by Abdullahi Lamino and Tony Okerafor