Nairobi, Kenya (AFP):
Al-Shabaab launched a deadly attack on a Somali military base on Tuesday, just a day after the government claimed a “historic victory” with the capture of a strategic coastal town.
There were conflicting reports about the death toll after the Al-Shabaab fighters stormed the camp in the town of Hawadley north of the capital Mogadishu.
Army chief Odowaa Yusuf Rage said on national radio that five soldiers including a senior officer had died in the attack claimed by the Al-Qaeda-allied group.
A clan militia commander near Hawadley, which lies in the central Hirshabelle state, said 11 soldiers had died.
Al-Shabaab fighters detonated a car packed with explosives outside the camp 60 kilometres (37 miles) north of Mogadishu before gunmen stormed the compound, witnesses and security officials said.
Al-Shabaab, which controls swathes of countryside in Somalia, claimed responsibility for the attack via its communication channels.
In recent months, the army and local clan militias have retaken chunks of territory from it in Galmudug and Hirshabelle states in an operation backed by US air strikes and an African Union force.
But despite the gains, Al-Shabaab has demonstrated the ability to strike back with lethal force against civilian and military targets.
The Hawadley base had only been recaptured from Al-Shabaab in October last year by the Somali National Army (SNA) and allied militias.
Prime Minister Hamza Abdi Barre on Monday proclaimed a “historic victory” over Al-Shabaab after the army took control of the strategic city of Haradhere in central Galmudug state without a fight.
“The brave members of the national armed forces… have destroyed the enemy of the nation and liberated the strategic port town of Haradhere,” he said in a statement.