Fighters from the al-Shabab group stormed a military base in central Somalia that the government had recaptured from them last year, killing at least seven soldiers, including the base commander, an officer said.
Assailants from the al-Qaeda affiliate rammed the base in the village of Hawadley with a suicide car bomb on Tuesday and then opened fire, Captain Aden Nur, a military officer in a nearby town, told the Reuters news agency.
“We repelled al-Shabab [but] lost seven soldiers, including our commander,” Nur told Reuters.
Al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement, saying it had killed “many apostate soldiers and their commander”.
The base is located about 60km (35 miles) north of the capital, Mogadishu, and was wrested from al-Shabab’s control in October by government forces and allied clan militias.
The operation was part of a broader government offensive, which began in August and has made significant gains. On Monday, the government announced it had captured Harardhere, an al-Shabab stronghold on the Indian Ocean coast that it had held for a decade.
As pressure on al-Shabab has grown, its fighters have struck back. They have stepped up gun and bomb attacks on the military and civilians, including in areas where they have retreated.
The group has been fighting since 2007 to topple Somalia’s central government and impose its strict interpretation of Islamic law.
In some regions, residents said al-Shabab’s tactics – including torching houses, destroying wells and killing civilians, combined with demands for taxes during the worst drought in 40 years – has pushed locals to form paramilitary groups to fight alongside the government.
But in other towns and villages, al-Shabab’s courts are gaining widespread acceptance as constitutional courts struggle with backlogs and a perception of being corrupt.
Nagala soo xiriir email@example.com