Zeila, Jul 7, 2009 — Five Somaliland nationals have reportedly been detained by Yemeni forces on Monday in a serious standoff between Yemen and the Republic of Somaliland.
A source in Somaliland’s capital said that Yemeni forces took the five men into custody in the wake of strained relationships between the two states. The arrests come after Somaliland coastguards seized six Yemeni nationals along with two fishing boats; the Six Yemeni men were detained in the Somaliland coastal town of Zeila on 4th of July.
The Yemenis are accused of smuggling Ethiopians searching for work in the Gulf States from Somaliland to Yemen. The smugglers often dump their passengers far from shore and force them to swim the rest of the way to avoid coast patrols. The Gulf of Aden between Yemen and the Horn of Africa is notorious for smuggling and piracy but Somaliland has been safe until now. In recent weeks, pirates and smugglers are shifting their operations to new areas where there are less patrols by NATO and American warships.
It is believed that one of the five men taken into custody by Yemeni forces is the son of Somaliland’s Commander of Coastguard in Zeila; “he went to Aden to export livestock” the source stated. Yemen is demanding that Somaliland releases it’s citizens in exchange for the five Somaliland natives.
There was no official statement from either Yemen or Somaliland officials.