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Angry Puntland troops leave Somaliland front
GAROWE, Somalia Apr 2, 2008 - Angry soldiers loyal to Somalia's Puntland State government left the military frontlines where they have been facing off rival troops from the breakaway region of Somaliland, Radio Garowe reported.
The commanding officers leading the soldiers who were backed by more than 10 armed trucks said they left the frontline town of Tukaraq, in Sool region, after the government of Puntland neglected its own troops.
Col. Jama Muse Omar, one of the troop commanders, told Radio Garowe that the soldiers came to speak with traditional elders in the Puntland capital of Garowe.
The commander complained that Puntland troops at the frontlines have not been paid in months, adding that they will address their grievances with the elders and intellectuals.
Garowe residents said this group of soldiers is the largest contingent to arrive in the capital city. The soldiers entered Garowe Wednesday night, with commanders saying they will speak with local elders tomorrow.
Somaliland and Puntland have been fighting over control of Sool region since 2002. Last October, Somaliland troops took control of the Sool regional capital Las Anod for the first time.
In a related development, reliable sources said soldiers driving the personal car of Puntland army commander Col. Ali Badiye surrendered over to Somaliland troops in Las Anod.
Col. Badiye's personal driver and two soldiers were warmly received by Somaliland military commanders, the sources added.
Defections are normal between the two sides, but this is the first time a senior military commander's personal guards surrendered over to the opposing side.
Both Puntland President Adde Muse and Col. Badiye are in neighboring Ethiopia, where they are holding talks on security and economic relations with Ethiopian government officials.
Conflicting reports have emerged regarding the Puntland leader's trip to Addis Ababa, with unconfirmed reports stating that Muse plans to ask the Ethiopian government to deploy troops in Puntland.
According to the report, President Muse's intention is to use Ethiopian troops as a security force to protect exploration sites, where foreign companies plan to explore for the region's unproven oil reserves.
Other reports tell Garowe Online that Ethiopian leaders invited Muse and senior security officials, including Col. Badiye, to Addis Ababa to discuss rumors that Ogaden National Liberation Front (ONLF) rebels are using the Puntland coast to land weapons.
The ONLF is an ethnic Somali rebel group fighting for self-determination in the Ogaden, a region in eastern Ethiopia dominated by Somali-speaking people.
Source: Garowe Online