Dozens of militants attacked two towns in southern Somalia early Saturday and engaged government troops in clashes in which 18 militants and soldiers were killed, according to a Somali military official.
Mohamed Abdullahi, a Somali military commander in Somalia’s Lower Shabelle region, said the clashes happened in Awdhegle and Mubarak townships, but that the militants were later driven out of the towns after government troops regrouped and launched a counter-attack.
He gave no more details on the causalities, saying only that there were deaths on both sides.
Despite major setbacks in 2014, al-Shabab continues to wage a deadly insurgency against Somalia’s government and remains a threat in the East African region.
Somali police officer Capt. Mohamed Hussein said Saturday that suspected militants traveling in a car sprayed bullets at the vehicle carrying two Somali legislators in the capital Mogadishu, seriously wounding one of them.
Gunmen stopped their car in front of the lawmakers’ vehicle, blocking them from proceeding as the gunmen fired at them, Hussein said. Lawmaker Yusuf Dirir was seriously wounded while his colleague, Abdalla Boss, a former Somali defense minister, escaped unhurt, he said. The attack is another reminder of the security challenges facing the Somali government, which, despite deploying hundreds of soldiers across the seaside capital to prevent militant attacks, is still unable to prevent deadly attacks. The latest attack took place on Maka Almukarramah Boulevard, which is mostly used by government officials and African Union forces in Mogadishu. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, but it bore the hallmarks of al-Shabab. The al-Qaida-linked extremist group frequently carries out suicide bombings, drive-by shootings and other attacks in Mogadishu, the seat of Somalia’s Western-backed government, often targeting government troops, lawmakers and foreigners.
The group has carried out attacks in neighboring countries, including Kenya, whose military is part of the African Union troops bolstering Somalia’s weak government.