290917AF Somalia webSomali security officers secure the scene of a car-bomb explosion in the Hamarweyne district of Mogadishu on September 28 2017. Picture: REUTERS
290917AF Somalia webSomali security officers secure the scene of a car-bomb explosion in the Hamarweyne district of Mogadishu on September 28 2017. Picture: REUTERS

Mogadishu — Al-Shabaab fighters killed at least 15 soldiers in an attack on a military base near Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, the militant group and Somali officials said on Friday. This comes a day after seven people were killed in a car-bomb attack at a bus stop near a market in the city’s Hamar Weyne district.

The militants used guns and car bombs to take control of the base and a nearby town, Barire, 50km south-west of Mogadishu, in an early-morning attack. The fighters also took 11 pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns, known as "technicals", said Abdiasis Abu Musab, al-Shabaab’s military operation spokesman.

"The other soldiers ran helter-skelter into the woods. We now control the base and the village," he said.

A Somali military officer put the number of dead at 15; al-Shabaab said 21 were killed. The government and al-Shabaab often give different death tolls.

"There was a battalion of soldiers but there was fierce fighting; twin suicide car-bombs and hand-to-hand fighting," Captain Osman Ali told Reuters. "The attacked soldiers were Somali military and the special forces trained by the US called Danab. There were neither African Union (AU) Mission in Somalia [members] nor other foreigners there," Ali added, referring to AU peacekeeping troops. He said that reinforcements were being sent.

Al-Shabaab aims to topple the government in Mogadishu and impose its own strict interpretation of Islam. Somalia has been at war since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

The al-Qaeda-linked group was driven out of the capital in 2011, but it still carries out frequent attacks on security and government targets, and AU peacekeeping troops. Civilians sometimes get caught in the crossfire.

Ali Nur, the deputy governor of the Lower Shabelle region where Barire is situated, confirmed the fighting. So did local residents.

"First we heard two huge blasts at the base and then heavy exchange of gunfire followed. Now it looks like the fighting’s died down," Ali Farah said from Barire village.

Two weeks ago, al-Shabaab attacked an army base at a town near the border with Kenya. Three weeks ago they struck another in the southern port city of Kismayu, killing a total of at least 43 people in the two attacks.

Reuters

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