Officials in the semi-autonomous region of Puntland in Somalia are warning that a full-scale war could break out within days between Puntland and its neighboring breakaway republic of Somaliland. The warning follows renewed clashes in the contested Sool region in the north of the country. VOA Correspondent Alisha Ryu reports from our East Africa Bureau in Nairobi.
A senior political adviser to Puntland's President Mohamed Adde Muse tells VOA that thousands of Somaliland troops entered the disputed town of Las Anod in Sool Monday morning and are now battling Puntland troops in the area.
But the adviser, Abdi Abdul Shakur Mire, says reports that Somaliland troops have captured the town are false.
"Our troops is controlling Las Anod, the capital of Sool, but clash is still going on. Somaliland troops are more than 8,000 to 10,000. Our troops is another 10,000," he said.
Residents in Las Anod reported earlier that Somaliland troops had captured the village and took 100 Puntland prisoners captive. Ten people are said to have died in Monday's fighting.
VOA has not been able to independently verify any of the claims.
Las Anod and its surrounding area has been the site of several major skirmishes in recent weeks. Each time, authorities in Puntland and Somaliland have offered conflicting reports about what really took place.
In mid-September, residents of a village near Las Anod said they witnessed an artillery exchange between Puntland and Somaliland troops. Puntland accused Somaliland troops of initiating the fight. But a spokesman for the Somaliland government denied that any of the government's troops were involved.
On October 2, Somaliland officials claimed that their troops had captured Las Anod, after a fierce firefight with Puntland troops. Puntland officials dismissed the claim as pure fabrication.
Puntland's presidential adviser, Abdi Abdul Shakur Mire, says the situation now is extremely serious. He warns that hostilities could escalate into a full-scale war.
"Big problem between Somaliland and Puntland. Maybe after three days, it will become a big battle [for] Sool region and Sanag region," said Mire.
The dispute over the regions of Sool and Sanag in northern Somalia began in 1998, when Puntland formed and declared the regions as sovereign territory based on the ethnic make-up of the region's inhabitants and their clan ties to Puntland.
Somaliland claims Sool and Sanag because the regions fall geographically within the borders of pre-independence British Somaliland. Somaliland declared independence from Somalia in 1991, but is not internationally recognized.