12 dead as Somalia Shebab attack town on Kenya border
MOGADISHU — Somalia’s Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab fighters briefly took control of a small town on the border with Kenya at the weekend, and they were blamed for two roadside bombs in one of their former bastions that killed five people.
The Islamists seized Bulohawo in a battle that left at least 12 people dead, military officials and witnesses said Sunday. The assault took place on Saturday.
Two roadside bomb attacks in the Somali port city and former Shebab stronghold of Kismayo killed at least five people on Sunday. At least four people died in an attack near a market where women sell khat, a mild stimulant very popular in Somalia. Another person was killed in a second attack.
While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, they were nevertheless blamed on the Shebab Islamists. The Shebab were pushed out of Kismayo in September after Kenyan troops allied with pro-government Somali militia stormed the town.
“Two explosions hit the town today,” Ahmed Adam, a commander from the pro-government Ras Kamboni militia, told AFP by telephone from Kismayo.
“The first one killed a woman and injured two others while the second, which was detonated near the khat market, killed several, we are still investigating the exact number,” he said.
“Shebab carried out the attacks but they only killed civilians,” he added.
Residents however said men from his militia were among the casualties.
Hassan Ilyas, a resident who saw the second bomb go off, said it killed two militia fighters and two women selling khat.
The Shebab, who have kept a low profile over the past weeks, on Saturday briefly took control of a small town on the border with Kenya, before being pushed back.
Heavy fighting broke out Saturday afternoon in Bulohawo and lasted into the evening, residents and military commanders said. Residents confirmed that the Shebab took full control of the town for a few hours before Somali troops were able to reinforce their positions.
“The violent elements attacked Bulohawo in late afternoon and after heavy fighting our forces defeated them and inflicted heavy losses,” Diyad Abdi Kalil, a Somali military commander in the area, told AFP.
Casualty estimates varied but most sources agreed that at least a dozen people, most of them fighters for the two sides, had been killed.
“The Shebab attacked the town from three directions and penetrated the barracks of the Somali troops after heavy fighting. They briefly took control of the town but were later forced back. Twelve people, most of them the fighters from the two sides, died,” said resident Sadik Mohamed.
Another resident, Hussein Mahat Abdulle, confirmed he had seen bodies in government uniform as well as bodies of what looked like Shebab fighters.
Kalil said his men had killed “nearly 20″ Shebab, but a spokesman for the Islamists dismissed that claim, saying his men had killed 15 Somali government troops.
Bulohawo, which lies just across the border from the town of Mandera in the extreme northeast of Kenya, was calm on Sunday, residents said.
Officials said two civilians in Mandera town had been hit by gunfire during the fighting.
The Shebab have been blamed for a series of cross-border raids into northeastern Kenya since Nairobi’s troops invaded southern Somalia last year to chase out the Islamist fighters.
Earlier this month Somalia put in place a new administration set up in a United Nations-backed process. It is hoped this will give the war-torn country its first effective central government since president Mohamed Siad Barre was ousted in 1991, unleashing cycles of bloody conflict that have defied countless peace initiatives.
sources : AFP
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