Militants from the al-Shabab Takfiri group claim to have killed more than 60 soldiers during an intense fighting in Somalia’s semi-autonomous Puntland region.
Military spokesman for the al-Qaeda-linked group Abdiasis Abu Musab said in a statement that its fighters had killed 61 soldiers after overrunning a military base in Af Urur town on Thursday.
“The number could rise since the operation is still underway,” the statement read.
Musab said al-Shabab fighters had also seized weapons and vehicles from the base. Bari region governor Yusuf Mohamed confirmed that a number of soldiers had been killed during the fierce gunbattles across the troubled region.
“Al Shabaab attacked Af Urur town this morning. There were few soldiers there and thus al-Shabab captured the town. It is difficult to know the casualties because the telecommunications were cut off,” he said.
Ahmed Abdiweli, a local security official, said the government forces had repelled the militant raid.
“Shabab militants attacked the Puntland military base near Galgala. The security forces have repelled them but there were some casualties,” Abdiweli said, adding the militants also suffered heavy casualties and lost many of their fighters.
Security officials said at least 10 soldiers lost their lives in the violent clashes.
“The fighting in Af-Urur was very intense this morning. There are dead bodies and wounded soldiers being brought to the hospital,” Hussein Dirie, an elder, said.
The developments come as al-Shabab militant group has stepped up its deadly bombings in the capital since the new government took office in February.
The long-chaotic Horn of Africa nation has been the scene of deadly clashes between government forces and al-Shabab militants since 2006.
The Takfiri militant group was forced out of the capital by African Union troops in 2011 but still controls parts of the countryside and carries out attacks against government, military and civilian targets seemingly at will in Mogadishu and regional towns.
The extremist group is just one of the challenges facing the new Somali government, which is still struggling to expand its authority beyond the capital and other selected areas.
By Africafrique and agencies