Militants attack military bases in southern Somalia

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April 3 (UPI) — The militant group Al-Shabab attacked Somali military bases in the country’s Lower Shabelle region early Saturday, according to military officials.

VOA News reported that around 4 a.m. Saturday, the group attacked military bases in Barire and Awdhegle in southern Somalia.

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Abdulaziz Abu Musab, the leader of the al Qaeda-linked group’s military wing, has claimed responsibility for the attacks and said they killed 47 government soldiers and confiscated equipment and ammunition, Bloomberg News reported.

Somali Army chief Brigadier General Odawa Yusuf Rageh has denied this claim, telling state media that Somali forces foiled the attack and killed “dozens of terrorist militants.”

The country’s defense minister later told state television the government killed about 100 militants while defending against the attacks.

Officials said the attackers started with suicide car bombs on both bases, then followed with infantry attack.

Abdulkadir Mohamed Nur Siidi, the governor of Lower Shabelle region, confirmed the attacks in a conversation with VOA’s Somali service, saying the militants fired mortars on the villages o f Sabiid and Anole, and more were reported near the town of Jannaale.

Troops stationed at the bases protect several bridges along the Shabelle river that officials describe as key to keeping vehicles from carrying explosives into Mogadishu.

Both villages were previously under control of Al-Shabaab, but Somali forces regained control of them in 2014.

Officials said Somali forces appear to have defended successfully against Awdhegle and a key bridge, but they also said there was heavy fighting in Barire, which Al-Shabab claimed to have “overrun.”

Later on Saturday Somali state media reported that a suicide bomber attacked a tea shop in Mogadishu, killing five civilians. Little information was available on the attack.

Early last month a car bomb went off in Mogadishu, leaving at least 10 people dead and injuring dozens of others.