Somali Minnesotans gather at the State Capitol to support Khaatumo residents fighting against Somaliland rule. (Isa Lopez/BLCK Press)
Approximately 200 Somali Minnesotans gathered at the State Capitol Friday to voice support for their friends and family who are actively resisting Somaliland rule in the state of Khaatumo.
Clashes in the city of Las Anod have left dozens dead and hundreds injured over the past week. Somaliland officials claim the city, but local leaders say they want to rejoin Somalia. Somaliland seceded from Somalia three decades ago; it is still not recognized as an independent country by the international community.
“The secessionist state is pretty much a clan enclave who's been trying to secede for the last 30 years,” explained community organizer AJ Awed, one of the leaders of the Khaatumo Youth League. “There is a huge majority different ethnic clan that lives in there that all these people make up, including myself. And we’ve never wanted to secede from the state of Somalia.”
Awed says Somaliland security forces moved in just as traditional elders were meeting to announce their decision to form the Somali federal state of Khaatumo.
“What they decided to do is bring in the military tanks, hard military grade weapons, heavy artillery, and they started to bomb the city,” said Awed. “So there's been countless lives… dead, over hundreds, thousands probably injured. The whole city is pretty much… everybody's fled - there’s an active war and conflict going on there.”
Awed says it’s important that Minnesotans understand what’s happening internationally and how it’s affecting their Somali neighbors, so that they can support the right U.S. foreign policies. He says his collective is working to provide medical supplies and other aid to people caught in the clashes.