Nearly 70 dead in al-Shabab attack on Somalia military base
Heavily armed al-Shabab extremists have stormed a military base in Somalia's semiautonomous state of Puntland, killing close to 70 people and wounding dozens more, officials said yesterday. Residents said civilians, including women, were beheaded during the
Officials called it the region's deadliest attack in years, highlighting the twin challenges facing security forces from the al-Qaida-linked al-Shabab and the growing presence of fighters linked to the Islamic State group.
The attack began with a blast at the remote Af-Urur camp, roughly 100 kilometres (62 miles) west of the commercial hub of Bossaso, before the extremists overran the base and killed soldiers at close range, said Ahmed Mohamed, a senior military official.
Close to 70 people were killed, though an exact death toll was not yet available, Mohamed said. Abdi Hersi Ali, Puntland's interior minister, said troops suffered causalities, but he declined to give further details.
Residents in the area reported chaotic scenes, with fighters beheading several civilians they encountered. One witness, Abdibasit Hassan, said women were among those beheaded.
Attacked from three directions
"The situation is grim over there. This attack was an unexpected one," Mohamed said. The extremists, including suicide bombers, reportedly attacked the base from three directions, forcing soldiers to retreat.
Col. Hashi Ahmed, a senior military official, told the Associated Press that reinforcement troops reached the area and drove the extremists out of the camp. He estimated that at least 100 fighters were involved in the attack.
Al-Shabab claimed killing at least 61 soldiers in the attack. The SITE Intelligence Group, which monitors extremist groups, said the extremist group issued the claim via its Shahada News Agency. Al-Shabab also said it seized a large amount of weapons and ammunition and more than a dozen military vehicles.
Al-Shabab last year became the deadliest Islamic extremist group in Africa, with more than 4,200 people killed in 2016, according to the Washington-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies.