Shabaab militants killed at least 15 soldiers in an attack on a Somali military base near the capital Mogadishu, the group and officials said on Friday.
The militants used guns and car bombs to take control of the Somali National Army military camp and a nearby town, Barire, 50 km southwest of Mogadishu, in an early-morning attack.
The fighters also took 11 pickup trucks mounted with machine guns, known as “technicals”, said Abdiasis Abu Musab, Shabaab’s military operation spokesman.
“The 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; Shabaab said 21 were killed.
“There was a battalion of soldiers but it was a fierce fighting; twin suicide car bombs and hand-to-hand fighting,” Captain Osman Ali told Reuters.
“The attacked soldiers were Somali military and the 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.
Residents said the attack left bodies of government soldiers scattered on the ground while Shabaab fighters looted the base.
“There were dead bodies around the military camp and I counted about eight of them from the Somali military but it could be more than that,” said Abdulahi Muktar.