AOAV: all our reportsExplosive violence in Somalia

Somaliland: fighting between Somaliland forces and tribal leadership claims civilian lives and puts hospitals out of action

Since the beginning of February 2023, AOAV has recorded 15 alleged incidents of explosive weapon use in Las Anod, Somaliland, and at least claimed 756 casualties, based on reporting in credible English language media sources including Reuters and Associated Press.

Of these, 148 have been reported killed, and 608 injured. 

In April, Amnesty International reported: “More than 100 people have been killed and over 600 injured including dozens of civilians amid fighting between Somaliland security forces and armed fighters affiliated with the Dhulbahante clan in Las Anod, Amnesty International said today, as it shares findings that Somaliland security forces indiscriminately shelled the town, damaging hospitals, schools and mosques, killing and injuring civilians, and displacing tens of thousands of people.”

Somaliland is an autonomous region in northern Somalia, which broke away and declared independence from Somalia in 1991. Though no foreign power recognises Somaliland’s sovereignty, it functions as a self-governing territory with an independent government and democratic elections. Some Somalilanders claim that Somaliland has never been part of Somalia.

Overall, Somaliland has been more stable than Somalia, with less armed group activity recorded in the region. However, tensions between Somaliland forces and local tribal leadership have been escalating since December last year, when protests calling for reunification with Somalia began.  Early in February 2023, elders in three provinces of Somaliland – Sool, Sanaag and Cayn (SSC) – announced they wanted to rejoin Somalia. They issued a statement pledging support for Somalia’s federal government, and declared the SSC as part of Somalia, deeming the presence of the Somaliland administration illegal.

Heavy fighting, including the use of artillery shells, mortar shells, and rocket-propelled grenades, broke out on February 6. Since then, hospitals, schools, and residential areas in the city have repeatedly been shelled, reportedly predominantly by the Somaliland forces. The intensity of the fighting has ranged from long-range shelling from the Somaliland Base, to invasion tactics and urban warfare.

Somalianders have disputed the reported figures, but the media organisations that AOAV takes its data from are established media providers. We only based our findings on their reports.

06/02/202334 killed in mortar and RPG shelling of military camps and retaliatory shelling in Las Anod; hospital and houses hitReuters, AFP
07/02/202310 killed and nine injured in artillery shelling in Las AnodNigerian Voice
07/02/202314 killed and 44 injured in shelling on Las AnodReuters
08/02/2023Woman in labour and child killed – several doctors injured in shelling on hospital in Las AnodPeople’s Dispatch
11/02/2023Nine civilians killed and 14 injured in artillery and mortar shelling of civilian areas in Las AnodReuters
14/02/202310 civilians killed (two children) and nine injured in shelling of Las Anod; residential buildings and school hitNigerian Voice
17/02/2023Eight civilians killed and more injured in shelling of Las Anod; residential buildings, school, mosque damagedHorseed Media
21/02/2023Eight killed and others injured in shelling and gun fire on Las AnodThe Muslim News
26/02/2023Two killed and four injured in artillery shelling of Hamdi HotelHalqabsi News
28/02/2023One civilian killed and eight injured in shelling of Las Anod hospitalAssociated Press
18/03/202347 killed, 280 injured in shelling of Las AnodThe African
20/03/2023Civilian killed in shelling of Las AnodPeople’s Dispatch
21/03/2023Three civilians killed in shelling of Las AnodPeople’s Dispatch
31/03/2023Two civilians killed (one woman) in shelling of Las AnodHalqabsi News
01/04/202333 fighters, four civilians killed, 200 injured in shelling of Las AnodPeople’s Dispatch

Overall, since 2010 AOAV has recorded 19 incidents of explosive weapons use in Somaliland, and 775 claimed civilians harmed (148 killed, 627 injured). 54 armed actor casualties have also been recorded in the region, 50 of whom were reported killed, and four injured. 

AOAV’s casualty figures represent the lowest of estimations in terms of the number of people killed and injured by explosive weapon use. In an effort to quantify the explicit harm caused by specific explosive weapons, AOAV solely records incident-specific casualty figures, as reported in English-language media.

AOAV condemns the use of violence against civilians and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. All actors should stop using explosive weapons with wide-area effects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians.

This article was edited on the 5 June 2023 to give more context to AOAV’s methodology.