Al Shabaab attack Somali military base

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Al Shabaab fighters killed at least 15 soldiers in an attack on a military base near Mogadishu, the militant group and Somali officials said.

The militants used guns and car bombs to take control of the base and a nearby town, Barire, south-west of the capital in an early-morning attack.

The fighters also took 11 pickup trucks mounted with machine guns, known as “technicals”, said Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabaab military operations spokesman.
“Other soldiers ran helter-skelter into the woods. We now control the base and the village,” he said.

A Somali military officer put the number of dead at 15; al Shabaab said 21 were killed. Government and al Shabaab often give differing accounts of death tolls.
“There was a battalion of soldiers but it was fierce fighting; twin suicide car bombs and hand-to-hand fighting,” Captain Osman Ali told Reuters.
“The attacked soldiers were Somali military and Special Forces trained by the US called Danab. There were neither AMISOM nor other foreigners there,” Ali added, referring to African Union peacekeeping troops. Reinforcements were being sent, he said.

Al Shabaab aims to topple the Mogadishu government and impose its own strict interpretation of Islam. Somalia has been at war since 1991, when clan-based warlords overthrew dictator Siad Barre and then turned on each other.

The al Qaeda-linked group was driven out of the capital in 2011, but still carries out frequent attacks on security and government targets and African Union peacekeeping troops. Civilians sometimes get caught in the crossfire.

Ali Nur, the deputy governor of Lower Shabelle region where Barire is, confirmed the fighting. So did local residents.
“First we heard two blasts at the base and then heavy exchanges of gunfire followed. Now it looks like the fighting died down,” Ali Farah told Reuters from Barire.

Two weeks ago, al Shabaab attacked an army base at a town near the Kenya border. Three weeks ago they struck another in the southern port city Kismayu, killing at least 43 people in both attacks.