MOGADISHU/NAIROBI. — A suicide car bombing, targeting an African Union military convoy in south-eastern Somalia, reportedly killed several people, says a Somali senior military commander.
The attack occurred in Janaale, where the Islamist group Al-Shabaab stormed an AU military base, killing about 20 soldiers. “I can confirm that there are deaths and wounded,” said the commander, who asked not to be named, without giving numbers.
He said details were still to be verified. Al-Shabaab claimed responsibility for the attack on pro-insurgent radio Andalus, saying it had killed several Ugandan AU soldiers. Al-Shabaab on Friday conquered the key district of Kuntuwarey in the same region after Somali and AU troops pulled out of there, local officials said.
The reason for the withdrawal was not clear. The AU has more than 20 000 peacekeepers in Somalia to help the government fight al-Shabaab. Al Shabaab took control of a populous town in central Somalia yesterday after African Union forces left the area – the third town the Islamist insurgents have seized since Friday, militants and local officials said.
The group, which seeks to overthrow the Western-backed government and impose its strict version of Islamic law, has remained a potent threat in the Horn of Africa country after it was forced from the capital Mogadishu in 2011.
The African Union peacekeeping force, AMISOM, withdraw from Buqda on Saturday night, less than a month after taking control of the town, an economic centre of the Hiran region, from al Shabaab.
“We have taken Buqda town peacefully today. The town is now under our control,” Sheikh Abdiasis Abu Musab, Al-Shabaab’s military spokesman, said. Residents said they had been treated brutally by both sides, but some said they welcomed the return of Al- Shabaab.
“The problem is that the government cannot keep control of the town and it does not want Al-Shabaab to rule it,” said local elder Nur Ibrahim. “Government troops rape, rob and kill us. Al-Shabaab also punishes anyone who sells items to the government.”
Over the last few days, Al-Shabaab has taken two small towns in the lower Shabelle region of Somalia, both on routes to sea ports: El Saliindi, 65 km south of Mogadishu en route to Marka port, and Kuntuwarey, on the road between the capital and Barawe port. — Reuters/AFP.