Between 5,000 and 11,000 years ago, early inhabitants left cave paintings in the rock shelters at Laas Geel, N of Hargeisa. Islam was introduced in the seventh century, and various sultanates ruled the region of Somaliland for several centuries. Parts of Somaliland were occupied by the Ottoman Empire in the 16th cent. and by Egypt in the early 19th cent. The British established the protectorate of British Somaliland in 1848, which became part of the newly created Somali Republic in 1960. When civil war broke out in Somalia in 1991, the region declared its independence as the Republic of Somaliland, and it has has refused to take part in national elections or in the implentation of a federal constitution. Somaliland, however, is not recognized by any country or international organization. There have been border disputes and conflicts with Puntland, and Somaliland has not had complete control over or the full allegiance of some areas within its claimed territory.
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