Somalia’s army and African Union forces said they killed at least six al-Qaeda-linked militant commanders in the country’s southern Lower Shabelle region amid an upsurge in fighting.
The dead al-Shabaab members included a judge in Janaale town and a Yemeni explosives specialist, the African Union mission in Somalia, or Amisom, said Tuesday in an e-mailed statement. There was no independent confirmation of the casualties.
“Operations to open the main supply route to the town of Janaale and clear improvised explosive devices continue and have now extended into the town,” Amisom said. “The clearance activities are meant to ease the movement of the population and goods.”
Al-Shabaab has waged an insurgency in the Horn of Africa nation since 2006 in a bid to impose a strict version of Islamic law. While the group has lost ground since being driven out of the capital, Mogadishu, in 2011 by government and Amisom forces, it continues to stage deadly gun and bomb attacks.
Janaale, about 75 kilometers (46 miles) southwest of Mogadishu, had been under al-Shabaab control since September. The militants attacked a base in the town used by Ugandan soldiers earlier that month, killing at least 12.
A local resident, Mohamed Ali, said by phone that Amisom troops withdrew from the town shortly after recapturing it and al-Shabaab fighters returned and took up “strategic positions.” Radio Andalus, a broadcaster that supports the Islamists, said al-Shabaab were back in control of Janaale after a few hours’ seizure by “enemy forces.”