Government forces in the self-declared Somaliland republic have withdrawn from a contested town near the border of Somalia after days of deadly protests against central rule, security officials said Thursday.
Demonstrations in Las Anod turned violent last week, with government forces accused by opposition parties and rights groups of shooting dead several protesters in the disputed border town.
Las Anod is claimed by both Puntland, a northern state in Somalia, and Somaliland, which broke away from the rest of the country in 1991 but remains internationally unrecognised.
The protests first erupted after a local politician was shot dead last week. Somaliland officials, which govern the town, said deaths occurred in clashes between police and demonstrators but did not say how many.
Las Anod mayor Abdirahim Ali Ismail said armed confrontation escalated between civilians and the military in the town on Wednesday after a local merchant was shot dead.
“In order to preserve the security situation, stability of the district and the wellbeing of the civilian population, the army commanders ordered the forces to return to their camps so that the situation returns to normal,” Ismail said.
Somaliland army commanders confirmed withdrawing from the town “to avoid further escalation” but warned they will not allow the stability of the region to be compromised.