December 19, 2010 / 1:27 PM / 9 years ago

Somaliland to charge 8 over weapons-laden plane

HARGEISA (Reuters) - Somalia’s northern breakaway enclave of Somaliland will charge the crew of a plane laden with weapons with airspace violation and carrying weapons to Puntland despite a U.N. arms embargo, a minister said on Sunday.

Mohamed Hashi Abdi, minister of air transport and civil aviation, said Somaliland had shown a U.N. delegation from the Committee of Weapons Embargo on Somalia, the weapons the plane was carrying when it landed on December10.

“Investigation of the Antonov-24 plane, which landed in Hargeisa carrying weapons, a six-man crew and 2 South African passengers, is completed. Their case is in the hands of the prosecution and will be taken to court soon,” Abdi said.

The two passengers will also be charged with falsely claiming to be journalists, the minister said.

Details of how the plane came to land in Somaliland and what type of weapons it was carrying were not clear.

Officials in Hargeisa say there are elements arming the semi-autonomous region of Puntland, despite a U.N. weapons embargo for Somalia. They are concerned armed groups across the border in Puntland could destabilise Somaliland.

“The aim was to show the (U.N.) committee and the world what the plane was carrying and that our complaint that Puntland is being armed was correct,” Abdi said.

There have been attacks in the town of Las Anod near the border with Puntland, the latest in September which killed a civilian and an army colonel.

Somaliland is proud of its relative stability, unlike southern regions of the failed Horn of Africa state, where al Shabaab insurgents control large amounts of territory and are fighting a weak Western-backed government.

In July, its president, Ahmed Mohamed Silanyo, was sworn in after an election observers said was free and fair, furthering its democratic credentials as it fights for international recognition.

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