Somalia’s al Shabaab fighters have attacked a military base outside the capital Mogadishu using car bombs and guns, killing 17 soldiers and taking control of the base and a nearby town.
Residents and officials confirmed the attack on Friday, but gave no details on casualties.
“After morning prayer today, two Mujahideen rammed into Barire military base with suicide car bombs. We killed 17 soldiers and took seven technical vehicles,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman told Reuters, referring to pick-up trucks mounted with machine guns.
“The other soldiers ran helter skelter into the woods. We now control the base and the village.”
Barire is 50km southwest of Mogadishu.
Al Shabaab aims to topple the government in Mogadishu and impose its strict owns 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 still carries out frequent attacks on security and government targets, but also on civilians. They also target African Union peacekeeping troops.
Ali Nur, the deputy governor of Lower Shabelle region where Barire is located, confirmed the fighting but gave no more details on casualties.
Residents in Barire also confirmed the attack.
“First we heard two huge blasts at the base and then heavy exchange of gunfire followed. Now it looks like the fighting died down,” Ali Farah told Reuters from Barire village.
Two weeks ago, al Shabaab attacked an army base at a town near the border with Kenya, while three weeks ago they struck another in the southern port city of Kismayu, killing at least 43 people in both incidents.