At least eight Somali soldiers were killed when the Al-Shabaab jihadist group overran their military camp on the outskirts of the town of Kismayo early Saturday, military officials and local elders said.
According to the sources, heavily-armed Shabaab militants launched a dawn raid on the military camp, followed by a heavy exchange of gunfire which lasted hours.
“The terrorists attacked Bulogagdud military base using heavy weaponry and explosives. The Somali military and Jubaland forces resisted the enemy before later retreating back from the base,” Mohamed Abdikarin, a Somali military official told AFP by phone,
“Six soldiers were killed during the attack and two others died after a booby-trapped vehicle was detonated when the forces retook control of the base,” he added.
Sources at nearby villages said the militants looted the camp and took a military vehicle.
“Al-Shabaab fighters secured control of the base and looted everything. They have set fire to the arms depots and took a military vehicle, but there were two choppers which carried out air strikes during the attack,” traditional elder Hassan Rashid told AFP.
The US military has stepped up airstrikes against Shabaab since 2017.
Suleyman Isse, another witness at a nearby village, said the Somali forces later regrouped after receiving reinforcement from Kismayo and returned to the base.
“The Somali forces retook control of the base with the assistance of military helicopters belonging to the US special forces which were hovering over the area even after the attack,” he said.
Shabaab militants claimed responsibility for the attack and claimed to have killed 42 soldiers.
The incident came a day after Shabaab said it had attacked Ethiopian troops in Somalia in an ambush attack on the road between the capital and the southwest town of Baidoa.
The Shabaab have been fighting to overthrow the internationally-backed government in Mogadishu and on Tuesday carried out a deadly attack in neighbouring Kenya, which it has regularly targeted since Nairobi sent troops into Somalia.
Four gunmen and a suicide bomber left 21 dead and injured 28 in Nairobi.
The Trump administration said on Thursday it would allow some 500 Somalis to remain in the United States for at least another 18 months under protected status given violence in their home county.
Somalis in the United States with Temporary Protected Status will be able to re-register for an extension of their status through March 17, 2020, according to a statement from the Department of Homeland Security. The status grants beneficiaries the ability to legally work while they are in the United States.
“After carefully reviewing conditions in Somalia with interagency partners, (DHS) Secretary (Kirstjen) Nielsen determined the ongoing armed conflict and extraordinary and temporary conditions that support Somalia’s current designation for TPS continue to exist,” the statement said.
The Trump administration has shown a deep skepticism toward the temporary protected status program, announcing its end for immigrants from El Salvador, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua and Sudan since President Donald Trump took office last year.
A speeding car exploded in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Saturday after it was shot at by police near the president’s residence, a police officer said.
“The police suspected the speeding car, fired at it and so it exploded outside the hotels near the presidential palace,” Major Mohamed Hussein told Reuters.
It was not immediately clear what the car contained.
In past incidents, al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab had used car bombs to target government buildings in the capital.
Al Shabaab wants to topple Somalia’s central government, expel the African Union-mandated peacekeeping force AMISOM and establish a government based on its own strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.
A truck bomb exploded outside a hotel at a busy junction in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu on Saturday causing widespread devastation that left about 30 dead.
“Initial reports from emergency departments indicate more than 20 bodies picked up off the street and many more are under the wreckage of buildings destroyed by the blast”, said Ibrahim Mohamed, a senior police officer.
Government security official Mohamed Aden said that bombing took place in a busy part of the city.
“There was a huge blast caused by a truck loaded with explosives. It went off at the entrance of a hotel alongside the K5 intersection,” he said.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but the Al-Qaeda aligned Shabaab carries out frequent suicide bombings in the capital and elsewhere as it fights to overthrow the internationally-backed government.
Witnesses said the blast, which threw a thick cloud of smoke into the sky that could be seen across the city, badly damaged a nearby hotel and left scenes of devastation on the busy road.
“This was very horrible, the bomb went off alongside the busy road and left many people dead. I saw several dead bodies strewn about but could not count them,” said witness Ismail Yusuf. “It was horrible.”
Emergency services were overwhelmed as they sought to respond to the bombing.
“This was very horrible incident. The emergency team don’t even know how many people they have collected because of the high number of the casualties,” said Abdukadir Haji Aden, director of Mogadishu’s main Amin Ambulance Service.
“They have collected tens of dead and injured and the work is still ongoing,” he said. – Widespread devastation-
The so-called “Kilometre 5” junction is in the Hodan district, a bustling commercial part of the city with many shops, hotels and businesses.
The explosion occurred outside the Safari Hotel, a popular place but not one that is commonly used by government officials. It is not known whether the hotel was the target on this occasion, but in the past the Shabaab has frequently attacked hotels where officials stay.
In any case, the devastation caused was widespread. Muhidin Ali, a Mogadishu resident who was close by at the time said it was, “the biggest blast I have ever witnessed, it destroyed the whole area.”
“There were dead bodies everywhere and injured people were screaming, some of them from under the rubble of destroyed buildings,” said Fadumo Dahir, a witness.
“The whole area looks like a scene from a war,” said Ahmed Bare, another witness.
The Shabaab was forced out of the capital six years ago by African Union and Somali troops, and subsequently lost control of major towns across southern Somalia.
However, the militants continue to control rural areas and launch attacks on military, government and civilian targets in Somalia, as well as terrorist raids in neighbouring Kenya.
Saturday’s blast comes two days after Somalia’s defence minister and army chief both resigned from their posts without explanation.
Somali soldiers, some of them wounded, fled across the border into Kenya during an attack by Islamic militants on the town of Bulo Hawo on Monday, security sources said.
At least 12 people died when fighters from the Al-Qaeda-aligned Shabaab group attacked the border town, according to witnesses, while many soldiers fled westward a few kilometres to the Kenyan town of Mandera.
“We have several of the soldiers from Somalia who ran to Kenya after the attack,” said Mohamud Saleh, regional coordinator for north eastern Kenya. “Some are injured and have been taken to hospital.”
Another regional security official, who did not want to be named, said the Somali National Army (SNA) soldiers numbered “more than 100”.
The assault on Bulo Hawo followed standard Shabaab procedure with a vehicle-borne improvised bomb exploding at the entrance to the town’s main military post, followed by a coordinated attack by militants from several directions.
“Shabaab militants attacked Bulo Hawo early this morning and heavy fighting erupted inside the town,” said Ibrahim Dahir, a Somali army officer in the area.
Abdukadir Moalim, a local elder, said at least 12 people were killed, “most of them combatants”.
Bulo Hawo resident Ahmed Omar said that lacking reinforcements the SNA soldiers, left the town “and some of them crossed the border with Kenya”.
The militants stole vehicles and weapons before withdrawing.
In a statement translated by the SITE Intelligence Group, Shabaab claimed responsibility for the raid saying it killed 30 soldiers and released 35 prisoners from jail.
Shabaab has been fighting to overthrow successive internationally-backed governments in Mogadishu for the last 10 years, and also carries out occasional terrorist attacks in neighbouring Kenya.
Somalia’s army is supported by a 22,000-strong African Union force while the US also carries out drone strikes against Shabaab commanders and has, in recent months, played an increasing role in Somali commando raids targeting the group’s leaders.
A Somali soldier was sentenced to death on Monday for killing a government minister after mistaking him for an Islamist militant, an army officer said.
Public works minister Abbas Abdullahi Sheikh Siraji was shot dead in his car in the capital Mogadishu in early May.
Soldier Ahmed Abdulahi Ahmed, was condemned to death by a military court “for mistakenly shooting the minister,” army officer Hassan Ali Noor told Reuters. A second soldier at the scene at the time was released without charge on Monday.
Siraji, 31, grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp and was the country’s youngest minister.
Militants from the al Qaeda-affiliated group al Shabaab have carried out frequent attacks in Mogadishu as they fight to oust Somalia’s Western-backed government and drive out African Union peacekeeping troops.
In a separate incident on Monday Abifutah Omar Halane, the spokesman for Mogadishu’s mayor, said security agents had arrested on Monday the head of a unit of al Shabaab responsible for assassinations and bombings in the capital, Abdiwahid Khalif Ahmed. The unit is known as Amniyat.
Suicide bombers attacked the main peacekeeping base in Somalia’s capital on Monday, killing at least three Somali security officers, police said.
Islamist al Shabaab militants, who want to topple the Western-backed government, said they carried out the assault near Mogadishu’s main airport, an area used by several embassies, aid groups and telecoms companies.
One bomber drove a car into a checkpoint outside the headquarters of the African Union peacekeeping force AMISOM, killing three Somali officers stationed there, police officer Mohamed Ahmed said.
Another vehicle then drove through toward the base’s main gates but came under fire from peacekeepers.
“It exploded about 200 meters from the gate. Civilian buildings were damaged,” AMISOM said on its Twitter feed.
The powerful blasts damaged the front of the nearby Hotel Peace, though there were no immediate reports of casualties there. The burned-out shell of one of the wrecked vehicles lay outside.
Al Shabaab’s military spokesman Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab said the fighters had intended to attack the hotel, as African leaders seeking a solution to Somalia’s decades-long turmoil had met there last year.
Islamist group Al Shabaab said it fought off an attack on one of its bases in southern Somalia early on Wednesday that was launched by foreign commandos who flew in on two helicopters, leaving one Al Shabaab fighter dead in the gun battle.
Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman, did not identify the nationality of the troops who launched the assault at about 1 a.m. in the Awdigle district of Lower Shabelle area, about 50 km (30 miles) south of Mogadishu.
Several foreign nations have been supporting the Somali government’s efforts to combat Al Shabaab’s insurgency.
The AMISOM peacekeeping force is made up of troops from several African nations which has been fighting alongside the Somali army. An AMISOM spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.
U.S. officials said in 2014 that U.S. military advisers had secretly operated in Somalia since around 2007. They also said at that time that Washington planned to deepen its security assistance to help Somalia fend off the Islamist threat.
Washington said it launched air strikes on another al Shabaab base on Saturday killing more than 150 Islamist fighters. Al Shabaab said the number was exaggerated.
It was not immediately possible to obtain any U.S. comment.
Al Shabaab’s military operations spokesman told Reuters the two helicopters landed on the banks of the River Shabelle and commandos from the aircraft advanced on the base.
“They were masked and spoke foreign languages which our fighters could not understand,” Abu Musab told Reuters. “We do not know who they were but we foiled them.”
He said the commandos carried rocket launchers and M16 rifles – referring to a weapon used by U.S. forces although Abu Musab did not mention any nationality.
Residents in the area confirmed there had been a gun battle and said they saw helicopters in the area. They said the mobile phone network did not work during fighting.
“We were awoken by exchange of heavy guns,” said resident Ahmed Farah speaking by phone later on Wednesday. “We could see the helicopters land and fly.”
He said al Shabaab later sealed the area so it was not possible to know if there were any casualties.
Al Shabaab, which wants to topple the Western-backed Somali government, has launched a spate of bombings in Mogadishu and elsewhere in the past two weeks, killing dozens of people. A car bomb killed at least three police officers on Wednesday.
Islamist militant group al-Shabab has taken control of Somalia’s port city, Merca, residents say.
With the reported development, the city, some 70km (45 miles) south-west of Mogadishu, is now the biggest town under al-Shabab control.
African Union forces who had held the port city for three-and-a-half years withdrew earlier on Friday morning.
The loss is a major setback for the African Union force (Amisom) in its decade-long battle against al-Shabab, the BBC reports.
The governor of Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, Ibrahim Adam, told the AFP news agency that al-Shabab secured control without fighting.
“Amisom forces moved out at midday and the local administration and all other Somali security forces left a few minutes later – and then heavily armed al-Shabab militants entered the town,” local resident Ibrahim Mumin told AFP.
“They have been addressing residents at the district headquarters,” he added.
Another resident, Mohamed Sabriye, told AP news agency that al-Shabab fighters had hoisted their flag over the city’s police station and administrative headquarters.