One Somaliland coastguard was killed and two others wounded after a gunbattle with Djiboutian naval petrol boats on Monday off the Indian Ocean, officials said.
The clashes started after Djiboutian patrol boats intercepted four illegal fishing vessels that were under Somaliland coastguards near the tiny horn of Africa nation’s maritime boundary, an area which officials said legally situates inside Somaliland’s territorial waters.
It was not clear if the foreign fishing vessels briefly venture past Djibouti’s maritime border before coming under attack by Djiboutian forces. In addition, the countries that belong to the vessels have not yet been identified.
However, the battle had led to seizure of one of the vessels with its crew along with Somaliland coastguards by Djiboutian naval troops that subsequently clashed with another Somaliland reinforcement gunship boat which later emerged and started firing at Djiboutian patrol boats.
Meanwhile, sources in Somaliland told local media that the foreign fishing vessels have been operating in Somaliland’s territorial waters in recent weeks with permits issued by Somaliland government which sanctioned their fishing activities.
No comment could be reached from Djiboutian and Somaliland officials on the incident.
In addition, it remains unclear how the latest incident will affect relations between Djibouti and Somaliland, a breakaway republic in northern Somalia that had no known previous maritime-related disputes.
The tiny horn of Africa nation of Djibouti is strategically located near the world’s busiest shipping lanes, controlling access to the Red Sea and Indian Ocean as It serves as a key refuelling and transshipment center, and is the principal maritime port for imports to and exports from neighboring Ethiopia.
It also hosts various foreign military bases, including the US, French and Chinese military bases.