On 31 August, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), for the first time, visited prisoners in Las Anod amid Somaliland’s accusations of their brutal treatment. On the same day, the Somaliland Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed grave concerns about their captured soldiers, whom SSC forces arrested after the Gooja’adde battle on 25 August.
Hargeisa, Somaliland, SOMALIA & Nairobi, KENYA. By Yahya:
In a strongly worded statement, the Somaliland government condemned what it called brutal treatment of their soldiers, including torture and murder. The Ministry further claimed that images and videos circulating online support these accusations.
“We call upon the international community to ensure that Somaliland POWs [prisoners of war] and the deceased receive treatment in accordance with conventions to which Somaliland is committed,” the statement emphasised. Despite the gravity of these allegations, Somaliland did not provide concrete video or photo evidence to substantiate their claims.
ICRC in Las Anod
The ICRC on 31 August conducted its first visit to over 300 Somaliland detainees in Las Anod, the capital of Somalia’s Sool region, as well as of the newly established SSC-Khaatumo administration. SSC-Khaatumo forces had captured these soldiers a week earlier in a dramatic battle over the Gooja’adde base in Las Anod’s vicinity.
The ICRC’s visit to detainees in Las Anod followed similar visits to assess the well-being of SSC-Khaatumo POWs in Hargeisa, Somaliland’s capital. The international organisation says it conducts these visits purely for humanitarian purposes to ensure that detainees receive humane treatment while informing their families of their whereabouts.
Pascal Cuttat, the head of the ICRC delegation in Somalia, stressed the importance of adhering to international humanitarian law, including providing access to food, water, and protection from ill-treatment. Neither Mr Cuttat nor the ICRC’s statement clarified whether the mission spotted any mistreatment of POWs on both sides of the conflict.
Somaliland vows revenge
Last Saturday, shortly after Somaliland’s withdrawal from Gooja’adde, the President of Somaliland urged revenge. Muse Bihi admitted losses during a press conference in Hargeisa. “People should not be discouraged by the fighting even though our army suffered losses. We should not perceive [the defeat] negatively because the army is still intact, and we will take our revenge against the alliance that perpetrated the attack.”
Furthermore, the President reassured the population, urging them not to worry about the possibility of increased tensions and conflict. According to Muse Bihi, despite difficulties, the army remains resilient, determined, and strong in unyielding patriotism. “We will effectively overcome these challenges and thwart the intentions of those who aim to undermine the security of our beloved homeland,” President Bihi asserted.