June 7, 2008 / 12:23 PM / 10 years ago

Somaliland forces arrest two Westerners

HARGEISA, Somalia (Reuters) - Security forces in a breakaway northern Somali republic arrested two Westerners on Saturday thought to be surveyors working for a Canadian mining company, government officials said.

Somaliland’s Defence Minister Abdillahi Ali Ebrahim said the two men had entered the country illegally and had been detained in Las Qorey district, Eastern Sanag region, with four Somalis.

“I will not be revealing the identity or nationality of the two Caucasians at present,” Ebrahim told reporters. “I will only say that they were traveling in a car and are believed to have been surveying minerals in the area.”

The four Somalis were all from neighboring Puntland, he said, all six men were being taken to the Sanag capital Erigabo.

Government sources said the two Westerners were believed to be employees of a Canadian company hoping to conduct a seismic survey in the area, which is rich in zinc and other minerals.

They did not elaborate.

Vancouver-based Africa Oil Corp is carrying out a survey in Puntland. Company officials could not immediately be reached.

Somaliland split from the rest of Somalia in 1991 when warlords toppled military dictator Mohamed Siad Barre, plunging the country into anarchy. It has governed itself since then.

(Writing by Daniel Wallis)

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