Simultaneous large explosions were heard in and around two Somali army bases on Saturday, with the military confirming at least nine of its people killed but asserting “heavy losses” among the attackers. The al-Shabab extremist group claimed responsibility.
Residents said the attacks occurred in Bariirre and Awdhegleh villages of the Lower Shabelle region, 75 kilometers (46 miles) south of the capital, Mogadishu.
Speaking to local media, Gen. Odawa Yusuf Ragheh, the commander of the Somali National Army, confirmed the twin attacks but said al-Shabab had been repulsed with “heavy losses” among the extremists.
“They even left some of the bodies of their slain commanders,” he added, saying his forces were still chasing the fleeing fighters.
Gen. Mohamed Tahlil Bihi, the commander of the infantry forces of the government, told The Associated Press that “we lost nine of our soldiers and 11 others got wounded from our side.”
He added, “from the Shabab, we killed 60 of their militias on one spot and 17 others near the other base,” he said.
An al-Shabab spokesman, Sheikh Abdulaziz al-Musab, asserted that the group had killed 47 government fighters. In a statement read out on the extremists’ radio Andalus, he said the simultaneous attacks began with suicide car bombs.
There have been fears that the al-Qaida-linked group would be emboldened by Somalia’s current political crisis as President Mohamed Abdullahi Mohamed is under pressure to step aside. Elections meant for February have been delayed.
Mogadishu on Saturday witnessed the opening of a meeting between the federal government leaders, including the president, and the leaders of the five federal member states. They were expected to discuss the way forward.