Somalia’s militant group al-Shabab has claimed that it has launched a blitz attack on African Union troops south of the country, killing 39 of them. Abdiasis Abu Musab, al Shabab’s military operation spokesman, said Sunday that the group had definitely killed 39 members of African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) in clashes that erupted earlier in the day in Bulamareer district in Lower Shabelle region about 140 km southwest of Mogadishu.
However, a senior regional official was quoted as saying by Reuters hours later that the death toll from fighting on Sunday between al Shabab fighters and Somalia government and African Union peacekeeping troops stood at 24.
“We have carried 23 dead AMISOM soldiers and a dead Somali soldier from the scene where al Shabab ambushed AMISOM today,” said Ali Nur, the deputy governor of Lower Shabelle region.
Al-Shabab is the dominant militant force in Somalia, a country in the horn of Africa that has been ravaged by decades of war and poverty. The militant group aims to oust the western-backed government in Mogadishu while it has always protested the presence of foreign peacekeepers.
Countries contributing to AMISOM have also suffered attacks by the al-Qaeda-linked Shabab. Kenya, a leading provider of troops and finances to the mission, has seen several of those attacks on its mainland over the past years, while attacks in Uganda have also been reported.
The attack came as officials in Mogadishu reported a deadly blast after a month of relative calm in the capital city. Five people were killed in the attack and 10 others were wounded in the assault which took place near Waberi police station along the busy Maka Almukarramah road. Most of the victims were civilians trapped in a morning traffic jam. There was no claim of responsibility from Shabab.