MOGADISHU, May 1, (Agencies): Al Shebab insurgents killed 16 Somali soldiers and retook a town northeast of the capital Mogadishu on Sunday, just one day after it had fallen to government forces, the military said. The Islamist group, which wants to topple Somalia’s Western-backed government, said it had killed 32 soldiers in the assault. It was not possible to verify independently the death toll.
Al Shebab has inflated casualty figures in the past. Captain Nur Ali said the attack had taken place early on Sunday morning in the town of Runirgood, about 180 kms to the north east of Mogadishu. “Al Shebab used a suicide car bomb to penetrate a military base.
It exploded and then fierce fighting followed. At least 16 soldiers died,” Major Abdullahi Omar, a second army officer, told Reuters from the region by phone. “The soldiers (at the base) were few and there were no AMISOM or other military nearby for reinforcement. We killed more than 10 militants in fighting on Saturday and Sunday,” Omar added. AMISOM is the African Union peacekeeping mission. Residents of Runirgood said they had seen dead bodies of both al Shebab and government soldiers in the town. Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shebab’s spokesman for military operations, said its fighters had killed 32 soldiers and captured three vehicles.
“It was a fierce battle and thank Allah, we recaptured the town,” he told Reuters. Somalia’s government is battling to rebuild the Horn of Africa nation after more than two decades of conflict. Al Shebab ruled large parts of Somalia until 2011, when it was driven out of Mogadishu by African Union and Somali troops. It still controls some rural areas, however, and carries out frequent attacks in the capital and other areas. Last week it attacked a Somali government military base and killed five soldiers near the northwestern town of Baidoa. Meanwhile, African Union peacekeepers and Somali government troops have killed several senior figures in the al-Qaeda- linked Islamist militant group al Shebab in Somalia in the last few days, the peacekeeping mission said.
Al Shebab was driven out of Mogadishu by the African Union force AMISOM in 2011, and last year it was pushed out of major strongholds in the south by AMISOM and the Somali National Army. It still controls some rural areas, however, and carries out frequent attacks in the capital and other areas in its attempt to dislodge the Western-backed government. On Tuesday, its fighters shot dead lawmaker Mohamed Ali’s two bodyguards in the capital and wounded Ali himself, police said. AMISOM said the dead al Shebab leaders included its commander and his deputy in the town of Janaale, Abdirashir Bugdube and Sheikh Mohamed Ali, and its commander in Leego, Aden Bale. They also included an al Shebab judge in Janaale, Mohamed Abribao; a Yemeni bomb maker known as Abu Islam; and a man identified as al Shebab’s chief trainer, the Kenyan Sheikh Mansur, AMISOM’s statement said.