Somaliland: Police wary of revenge attacks on Puntland truckers

BURAO (Somalilandpress) — At least five trucks belonging to businessmen hailing from the semi-autonomous region of Puntland were taken into custody in Burao on Saturday under new security arrangements, officials say.

Togdher regional Police Commissioner, Col. Abdulrahman Ahmed Liban, said police in the region have taken a number of trucks belonging to Puntland because of possible revenge attacks after Puntland pirates seized seven WFP aid trucks belonging to Somaliland truckers.

“It’s possible relatives of the trucks seized in Puntland might seek revenge for that reason and security purposes we have taken Puntland truck  and their drivers into custody. Its part of the security of this region,” he said.

He did not say when they will be allowed to resume their business or if they will be escorted back to Puntland but the Commissioner has warned Somalilanders against seeking their own justice. He added that everyone must respect the law and understand the truckers are civilians just trying to feed their families.

Seven trucks and their drivers contracted by World Food Programme from Somaliland were taken hostage by Puntland pirates on their way back to the Somaliland port of Berbera after delivering food aid to the central Somali town of Galkayo.

More than 160 Somaliland trucks were contracted by WFP to carry the much needed food to the displaced Somalis in the central regions of Somalia.

In the past, WFP used the port of Berbera to deliver aid to landlocked Ethiopia but because of the Islamists groups in Somalia and the pirates in Puntland, WFP decided to use Somaliland’s port. Somaliland has successfully kept the Puntland pirates at bay arresting more than 40 in the process thus far. Now, the Puntland pirates want all 40 released in exchange for the seven truckers.
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According to sources close to the pirates, the trucks are been kept in small town near the pirate lair of Garaad called Kulud.

Puntland authority has also protested against WFP for their usage of Berbera port insisting they should use their port at Bosaso. Puntland refused them entry and many trucks crossed into Galkayo over the Ethiopian border – however Puntland eventually allowed the trucks entry after they were stranded in Las Anod for five days.

WFP’s move to use Berbera may have also angered Somalia’s Islamists hard-line movement of Shebab Al-Mujahideen, who have issued a statement today banning WFP operating in Somalia.

According to Middle East Online, a senior member of the group has stated: “We have already given (WFP) chances to operate in Somalia but after failing to comply with the conditions we put forward, we totally banned WFP operations in Somalia.”

In a related development, reports coming out off the town of Burtinle in the Nugal region of Puntland suggest further four trucks from WFP convey have been kidnapped by separate Puntland militia. No one exactly knows their motives.

Also it is reported that militia groups have looted and fired bullets at truck conveys traveling between the two Puntland towns of Galkayo and Garowe on their way back to Berbera. No reports of casualties so far.

A trucker from the town of Las Anod said, they were stopped shortly after leaving the town of Galkayo, they were stopped at gun point and asked for their clan. “After they learned I’m from Las Anod and Dhulbahante tribe, they took some cash from me and let me go but they detained other drivers from other clans in Somaliland” he said.

Another driver told Geeska Afrika that at least 35 trucks were still stranded in Galkayo too afraid to leave. “We are afraid of traveling back to Puntland, they are armed militia on the road and we have no arms because we use to peaceful Somaliland where civilians do not carry guns” he told Geeska.

According to the WFP, an estimated 1.55 million Somalis are internally displaced and 285,000 Somali children are malnourished. Over all WFP delivers over 90 percent of it’s aid for Somalia by sea often escorted by naval NATO and US ships.

“The situation in South and Central Somalia is aggravated by civil strife, insecurity and consecutive seasons of poor rains. Somalia has some of the world’s worst health indicators. Life expectancy at birth is 46.2 years. A quarter of children die before they reach five,” WFP said a statement on their website.

No official comments from WFP, Somaliland or Puntland authority.

The coast off Somalia is among the world’s most dangerous shipping lanes and the state has not had effective government since 1991.

Video: More than 70 trucks stranded in Las Anod after Puntland protests about the food import via Berbera port, more trucks on their way, while others already crossed via Ethiopia.

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Somalilandpress, 28th February 2010

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