May 17, 2012 ·108 Comments
HARGEISA — A military tribunal in Hargeisa has convicted and sentenced 17 civilians to death by firing squad over the killing of three policemen.
The ruling follows deadly clashes in eastern Hargeisa on Tuesday that left more than seven dead including a pregnant mother and scores of others hurt.
The clashes erupted when government forces including the newly-formed and British-sponsored tactical force known as Resistant Reaction Unit (RRU) were deployed in a disputed plot of land on early hours. Residents in the area confronted the force with weapons and the two exchanged fire escalating to an all out war. The land dispute centers a former factory that was abandoned after the fall of Somalia’s last central government in 1991.
This was the single bloodiest day in Hargeisa since the 2008 coordinated car-bombings that left more than twenty people dead.
Locals fear if the military carries out the execution it could bring back the dark days of dictator Mohamed Siad Bare’s rule. They pointed out that if the martial court goes ahead it could lead to reprisals that could eventually destabilize the whole volatile region. Others fear the resurgence of inter-clan rivalries and conflicts.
The police, tactical forces and the military took part in the operation which saw them take at least 28 people mainly teenagers into custody.
Five other men were sentenced to life in prison in the first verdicts related to the land dispute uprising. The men were tried behind closed doors on charges of premeditated murder of government forces and employees. Only three have been released while three others who sustained injuries got their trials delayed. All convicted people are said to be aged between 19 and 20 years.
No one in Somaliland recalls the last time capital punishment was carried out in the Horn of African nation.
Tensions are soaring in the city and atmosphere is intense following the announcement of the sentences. Transport has all together halted in eastern parts of the capital with reports the government has requested an additional 300 troops from Dararweyne base near Berbera.
Eyewitnesses said roads in the hotspot area were blocked with burning tyres and rocks.
During the deadly skirmishes two independent journalists from Yool newspaper have been arrested and continue to remain behind bars without charges. Mohamed Abdi Omar and Khadar Farah Hussein were nabbed by police on Tuesday while photographing the Interior Minister and Minister of presidency during their visit to the disputed former military repair centre.
May 16, 2012Follow @somalilandpress