Somaliland's interior minister has ordered foreign Islamic clerics and other non-natives to leave the breakaway region immediately, following the arrest of several alleged al-Qaida operatives.

Ismail Osman Aden says his order was prompted by security concerns.

Police detained at least one al-Qaida suspect in an overnight raid in the region's capital, Hargeisa, bringing to at least seven the number arrested over the previous two days.

Mr. Aden says the suspects had traveled from the Somali capital, Mogadishu, and were planning attacks against senior officials and foreign workers in an effort to disrupt next week's elections in Somaliland.

The breakaway region, which is not internationally recognized, split from Somalia after the country descended into anarchy following the overthrow of Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.

The United States and other western intelligence agencies see Somalia as a potential safe haven for terrorists.

Some information for this report provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.