Somali government forces have repulsed an al-Shabab attack on a key military base in the southern Lower Shabelle region.
Hundreds of militants attacked government forces in the key town of Awdhegle on the bank of the Shabelle River early Sunday, officials said.
The attack sparked heavy fighting between al-Shabab fighters and government forces who have been controlling the town since August 2019 when they removed the militants.
Awdhegle is a strategic town where government forces protect a key bridge that officials say is key to preventing the smuggling of al-Shabab vehicles carrying explosives into the capital, Mogadishu.
Residents told VOA Somali that the militants “entered” parts of the base before government forces beat them back.
The governor of the region, Mohamed Ibrahim Barre, told VOA Somali that the militants used explosives in attacking the base.
“They attacked the town from two directions – the north and west,” he said.
“The fighting lasted for almost two hours.”
In a statement, the federal government of Somalia said more than 60 militants were killed. Government officials circulated video clips purportedly showing the bodies of alleged al-Shabab fighters killed in the fighting, but the number of bodies shown appeared to be smaller than the figure mentioned in the official statement.
Al-Shabab said it killed 59 government soldiers. The al-Shabab statement also acknowledged the loss of seven fighters. Casualty figures have not been independently verified.
Al-Shabab said Sunday’s incident was part of a “broader campaign of coordinated attacks” against government forces, and the fifth in two weeks.
One of those five attacks took place in the village of Cowsweyne in Galmudug state where dozens of government soldiers were killed on August 26. The attack forced government troops to retreat from a number of front-line towns in Galmudug.
Government forces repulsed militants in the other three incidents. On September 1, al-Shabab militants attacked the agricultural town of Qoryoley, west of Awdhegle, briefly entering it. Local forces regained full control after a 90-minute gun battle.