MOGADISHU (Reuters) – A government military base in the Lower Shabelle region of Somalia was struck by car bombs and gunfire on Wednesday, residents said, and the al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab group claimed responsibility for the attack.
The mid-morning attack occurred in Awdheegle, an agricultural district along the Shabelle River, 70 km southwest of the capital Mogadishu.
“We heard two huge blasts and gunfire from the direction of the Somali military base. I saw several soldiers running away from the base to escape but we cannot know how many were killed,” Awdhigle elder Aden Abdullahi told Reuters.
Al Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it had killed 50 soldiers and two of its fighters had died.
“Two mujahideen driving two car bombs, one after the other, entered the Somali base in Awdhigle district today. We killed 50 government soldiers and burnt their vehicles,” Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab’s military operation spokesman said.
Government officials were not immediately available to comment on the incident or confirm the casualties. The jihadist group and government officials tend to give sharply differing casualty figures for attacks.
Al Shabaab is fighting the weak, U.N.-backed Somali government and its international allies in a quest to impose a strict interpretation of Islamic law.
(Reporting by Abdi Sheikh and Feisal Omar; Writing by George Obulutsa; Editing by Peter Graff)