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Thursday, December 30, 2010

Somaliland jails Russians over weapons for Puntland

Six Russians have been jailed in the northern Somali breakaway territory of Somaliland.

Their aircraft was seized earlier this month carrying military equipment bound for the neighbouring semi-autonomous state of Puntland.

A court sentenced them to a year in jail and fined them $500 for supplying military equipment to an enemy.

The charterer of the plane, Saracens International, denied that the cargo was illegal.

The Russians were also convicted of violating Somaliland's airspace. The uniforms and mines which were found on board the aircraft were confiscated by the court in the Somaliland capital, Hargeisa.

Disputed territory

After the arrests were made, the interior minister of Somaliland, Mohamed Abdi Gaboosi, said the cargo was in violation of the United Nations arms embargo on Somalia.

Saracens - a private military contractor, which is based in Uganda and South Africa - told the BBC at the time that the cargo was destined for its operation in Puntland, where it is training an anti-piracy force.

Somaliland declared itself independent from Somalia in the early 1990s, but is not internationally recognised. It is relatively stable, unlike the rest of Somalia, and even organises regular elections.

However, it has a border dispute with Puntland and the two security forces occasionally clash.

Unlike Somaliland, Puntland says it does not seek recognition as an independent entity, wishing instead to be part of a federal Somalia.

Somalia has not had an effective national government since 1991.

Source: BBC


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