Somalia Table of Contents
The Isaaq as a clan-family occupy the northern portion of the country. Three major cities are predominantly, if not exclusively, Isaaq: Hargeysa, the second largest city in Somalia until it was razed during disturbances in 1988; Burao in the interior, also destroyed by the military; and the port of Berbera.
Formed in London on April 6, 1981, by 400 to 500 Isaaq emigrés, the Somali National Movement (SNM) remained an Isaaq clan-family organization dedicated to ridding the country of Siad Barre. The Isaaq felt deprived both as a clan and as a region, and Isaaq outbursts against the central government had occurred sporadically since independence. The SNM launched a military campaign in 1988, capturing Burao on May 27 and part of Hargeysa on May 31. Government forces bombarded the towns heavily in June, forcing the SNM to withdraw and causing more than 300,000 Isaaq to flee to Ethiopia.
The military regime conducted savage reprisals against the Isaaq. The same methods were used as against the Majeerteen-- destruction of water wells and grazing grounds and raping of women. An estimated 5,000 Isaaq were killed between May 27 and the end of December 1988. About 4,000 died in the fighting, but 1,000, including women and children, were alleged to have been bayoneted to death.