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Al-Shabaab fighters storm Somali military base

By AFP

March 23, 2024 08:51 PM


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Fighters from the Islamist militant group Al-Shabaab stormed a military base outside Somalia's capital Mogadishu on Saturday, with casualties reported, military officers and witnesses said.

The early-morning raid occurred in Busley, 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Mogadishu, where Somali security forces have set up temporary bases for operations against Al-Shabaab dominated villages in the region, according to security sources.

The assault comes after Al-Shabaab gunmen attacked a hotel near the presidential palace in Mogadishu on March 14, killing three people and demonstrating the group's continued ability to strike despite a major military offensive against the jihadists.

Mohamed Adan, a military officer in the nearby district of Afgoye, said heavy fighting had erupted after "terrorists" attacked the Busley base.

"They blew up a vehicle loaded with explosives in the early morning before the gunmen engaged in a face-to-face armed confrontation with security forces," Adan told AFP.

"The Somali army defended their position and several soldiers including a commander were confirmed dead," he added.

"The desperate terrorists also ambushed a reinforcement military convoy along the road near Dhanaane but they lost a dozen fighters" in the incident, Adan said, adding that Somali forces were now back in control of the area.

The Al-Qaeda affiliated group claimed in a statement its fighters had overrun the Busley base and that among those killed was the base commander.

The claims could not be independently verified and the Somali government has made no official comment on the attack. 

 'Heavy explosions' 

 "We heard heavy explosions and gunfire this morning," said Hassan Nur, a resident of Jazeera village near Busley, adding that he saw a military convoy pass on the road heading towards the area of the fighting.

Al-Shabaab has been waging a deadly insurgency against the fragile central government in Mogadishu for more than 16 years.

Although the militants were driven out of the capital by an African Union force in 2011, they still have a strong presence in rural Somalia and have carried out numerous attacks against political, security and civilian targets mostly in Somalia but also in neighbouring countries including Kenya.

Somalia's beleaguered federal government launched a major offensive against the Islamists in August 2022, joining forces with local clan militias.

The army and militias known as "macawisley" have retaken swathes of territory in central Somalia in an operation backed by an AU mission known as ATMIS and US air strikes.

But the offensive has suffered setbacks, with Al-Shabaab earlier this month claiming it had taken multiple locations in the centre of the country.


AFP


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