Rapes on the rise in Somaliland, an area traditionally considered a refuge from violence

Rights activists say an upsurge of gang rapes has hit the breakaway region of Somaliland — a normally peaceful enclave considered a sanctuary from the decades of violence in Somalia's civil war.

Fathia Hussein Ahmed, chairwoman of Somaliland's national human rights commission, said at least 84 women have been raped since the beginning of this year.

Knife-wielding young men follow women along the dusty streets of Hargeisa, the capital of the region, dragging them inside buildings to rape and rob them.

The northern region of Somaliland declared independence from the rest of Somalia in 1960, but it has not won international recognition. Somaliland employs its own security and police forces, justice system and currency. It has a reputation for maintaining law and order for its population of 3.5 million.