Somaliland: Death By Firing Squad Ordered For 17 Civilians

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on May 17 2012 9:16 AM

A military court in Somaliland sentenced 17 civilians to death by firing squad on Wednesday for attacking army officers in the capital of Hargeisa.

The tribunal's ruling came just one day after clashes in Hargeisa left seven people dead, including three army officers and a pregnant woman.

Tuesday's raid stemmed from a decades-old land dispute. Thirty armed members of the same clan attacked a military base on the outskirts of the city, claiming that the base was built on their ancestral lands, according to Africa Review. A number of bystanders were injured in the gun battle.

The army killed two of the attackers, wounded eight and captured 28, General Ismael Mohamed Shaqale, commander of Somaliland's Army, stated.

Three of those arrested on Tuesday were acquitted on Wednesday and three have yet to be tried because they are being treated for injuries. Another five were sentenced to life in prison, escaping the death penalty because they were minors, the BBC reported.

None of the suspects who appeared in court on Wednesday -- including those sentenced to death -- were allowed legal representation and the sentencing was said to have taken only a few hours.

All the suspects admitted to have participated in an armed attack against a military compound,” the courts judge, Col. Yusuf Farah Sharmarke, told Africa Review, adding that confiscated weapons and the confessions provided enough evidence to convict.

The verdict has sparked fears of a violent reprisal and, according to the Somaliland Press, tensions are soaring in the city and atmosphere is [tense] following the announcement of the sentences.

Somaliland is a self-declared independent nation, although it is recognized internationally as an autonomous region of Somalia. The area has its own government, which started as a tight-knit coalition between Somaliland's many clans and eventually turned into a multi-party democracy, one that the New York Times called in 2007 an overlooked African success story.

While Somaliland has escaped much of the violence that has plagued Somalia since the civil war began in 1991, land disputes there are not uncommon. Tuesday's attack was the bloodiest since 2008, when coordinated car bombings in Hargeisa left more than 20 people dead.

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